WCBA-WLAM host Barbara McQuade

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By Frank Weir

Legal News

"I have this job not because of me but because the idea of it was long overdue," said Barbara McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan last Tuesday.

The WCBA and the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Washtenaw Region sponsored the "strolling reception" for McQuade at Weber's.

McQuade, who was sworn into the office in January of last year, is well known and liked in Washtenaw County given that she is a resident of Ann Arbor.

She discussed diversity at the event.

"I know that Washtenaw County is committed to diversity in the legal profession and there is so much work yet to be done.

"Our goal as lawyers should be to create the right places and the right times for others until everyone has the same opportunities.

"When I was a kid, there was a riddle about a doctor who could not operate on a boy because the boy was the doctor's son but the doctor was not the boy's father.

"You were asked to name the relationship of the boy and the doctor. In 1973, no one could figure out the answer which is, of course, that the doctor is the boy's mother.

"Today's children can easily imagine that a woman could be the boy's doctor. Kids see that medicine is women's work now.

"You need to see something to imagine it. Many jobs for women now can be seen and imagined which couldn't be before. Things are far from perfect but we are getting there."

McQuade noted the surprise of her young son in 2004 when the toddler saw a male governor speaking at the national convention on television after then Michigan Gov. Granholm.

"My son said, 'You mean boys can be governors too?' Because of Gov Granholm my son thought that women as governors was not only ordinary, but the rule.

"I have my job due to the women who have gone before me; women who paved the way since they did a good job. Seeing is believing. You have to see it first.

"We now have women working in the highest levels of government but there was a time when high level jobs were not open to women. We all know the story of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor who graduated at the top of her class yet was not able to get a job as a lawyer. No one in that era could imagine her as a lawyer because they hadn't seen it before.

"Now we have 20 of 93 U.S. attorneys who are women. Twenty of 93 still is not so great. Any of us who are in the role of hiring have a responsibility to improve diversity in the professions. It's the morally right thing to do. It improves the profession when there are more perspectives at the table.

"Eric Holder told all the U.S. attorneys to develop diversity plans and not just between the races. We want difference life experiences. We have hired 21 lawyers since I began. It's a real opportunity for me to leave a lasting legacy in the office.

"We have three new hires who were born outside the U.S.; we have someone who didn't graduate from high school but got a G.E.D. and went on to college and law school; we have a former administrative law judge and a former defense attorney.

"We hired your own Laura Sagolla who earned an English degree before attending law school.

"We have people who speak Albanian, Congolese, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.

"And yes, we hired three white males as well.

"But the responsibility doesn't just rest with hirers. Potential applicants need to stretch themselves, to look for something beyond what you think you can do. Look beyond where you see people like yourself

"And I encourage those hiring again to expand your horizons, to be proactive and find new sources of applicants to improve diversity in your workplace.

"You can make a difference in what the future of our profession will look like."

The event was sponsored by

Kolossos Printing of Ann Arbor and Moretti Group Court Reporting and Videoconferencing.

Published: Mon, Apr 18, 2011

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