Outstanding Women Lawyers of Color in Government and Corporate Sectors Spotlighted as Groundbreaking Research Initiative Expands
Calling on her fellow women lawyers of color to continue their work to advance their agenda for equality in the legal profession, Michelle Coleman Mayes, senior vice president and general counsel for The Allstate Corporation, echoed the call to action made earlier by Veta Richardson, executive director of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association: “You need to take stock, you need to take credit, you need to take risks, you need to take a hand and you need to take a stand.”
Mayes and three other lawyers were honored for their commitment to women attorneys of color at a May 29 reception sponsored by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, which took place at Jenner and Block’s Chicago office.
In addition to Mayes, the event recognized ABA President H. Thomas Wells Jr. and Anita Alvarez, the first female and first Hispanic state’s attorney for Illinois’ Cook County. Alvarez, who is poised to take the helm of the Chicago Bar Association for the upcoming term, shared with the more than 150 guests in attendance how far women of color have come. Not too long ago, she said she was sometimes mistaken for a Spanish interpreter, instead of counsel, earlier in her career when there were few women lawyers, and even fewer women lawyers of color.
Honoring the work of outstanding lawyers was only a part of the event. The reception was also a fundraiser for the expansion of the commission’s groundbreaking research program, Visible Invisibility: Women Lawyers of Color in Law Firms, which is examining the factors that keep women lawyers of color from reaching the highest ranks in the legal profession. The second and third phases of the initiative will focus on women of color in the government sector, specifically, the Department of Justice, and women of color in Fortune 500 legal departments.
Most of the event attendees were women, but honoree Wells shared his belief that the work of the commission isn’t just important to women: “As most of you can tell, I’m a non-woman; I’m not of color; and I’m not disabled, but that doesn’t stop me from having a strong commitment to diversity,” he said. “On diversity issues, sometimes it’s amazing what middle-aged white men can do when they put their minds to it.”