August 26, 2021
Women’s Equality Day is celebrated annually on August 26 and commemorates the signing of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. This national holiday celebrates the women’s suffrage movement and the ongoing work to secure and expand equal rights.
Jessica is SNC’s Senior Legal Counsel and a believer in continual innovation, which coincides with the inclusion, diversity & equity initiative that’s ongoing at SNC. She shared her thoughts on this important day, and what it means for those of us at SNC.
Please start by sharing a little about your job as Senior Legal Counsel at SNC. What’s a day in the life like?
No two days are the same working as in-house counsel as the work is extremely diverse. There can be a lot of pressure to respond to matters urgently and there is a lot of putting out fires. On a typical day, I might work on anything from reviewing contract terms, advising on intellectual property, privacy and employment law issues, collecting and reviewing documents for litigation, and everything in between.
Despite the variety, I spend the majority of my time providing advice and counsel to our Human Resources colleagues. This could include such things as advising on an investigation, revising performance counseling or discipline documentation, researching discrimination and harassment issues, and discussing options under the ADA and the FMLA for an employee who needs some help.
Why do you like/love what you do?
Being in-house counsel is amazing. What is most important is being confident in being able to ‘issue-spot’ and ask the right questions. Being in-house requires me to be part advisor, part negotiator, part litigator, and part problem solver, as well as needing to understand SNC’s business needs and balance those against the risks of any course of action.
My passion is employment law. While I work for a business, the employment work I do is people-centric, which is different from the other areas of the law that I do. Employment law is essentially about people, which makes it incredibly varied and keeps it interesting. The details of a given situation can make all the difference in what advice I provide. Employment law is always evolving and changing. It can sometimes be difficult to keep on top of it all but that is what makes it intellectually stimulating. I like the fact I am always learning. It is also an area where good advice can make a real difference. Good advice can help solve problems and avoid conflict.
Why do you think it’s important to celebrate women’s equality?
Barely 100 years have passed since women were granted the right to vote. The women’s suffragist movement succeeded in large part because a group of women (and men) joined together to fight for change. It is all too easy to sit back and wait, but if those women and men had done this in the 1920s, I may not have had the opportunity to practice law today. It is vitally important that we continue to celebrate women’s equality to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness about women’s equality, and lobby for accelerated gender equality.
Why is Women’s Equality Day important to you?
While there has been significant progress on women’s equality, there is still much to do. The gender pay gap persists in the U.S., women are still under-represented in certain industries and in leadership, and most pathetically, the Equal Rights Amendment is still not ratified. For those not familiar, the Equal Rights Amendment is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex first proposed in 1923 and approved by the U.S. Senate in 1972.
The absence of women in top positions in the corporate, financial, and legal sectors has been widely documented. In fact, the legal sector has some of the largest gender gaps in leadership positions when compared to other professions, although entry levels have been at near parity for many years. This absence [of other women] can be intimidating, but throughout my life, I have not allowed fear to deter me. Whether it be climbing trees with my three brothers, firefighting during college, or deciding to practice law, it has always been important to me to keep trying, even if I am the only woman present. Thankfully, I am not the only woman challenging the status quo. I’m grateful to be surrounded with passionate and talented women and supportive men who remain great allies on women’s equality.