In the United States, women have a long way to go to reach parity with men when it comes to partnerships in leading law firms. Despite strides, women are still only 16% of equity partners at major law firms and less than 3% of those firms’ top earning partners. The silver lining is that women are, and have been roughly half of law school students.
As Ugandan law students Joaninne Nanyange and Monica Athieno can attest, the international statistics are not the same. Joaninne and Monica are Ms. JD’s first International Scholars. Ms. JD is an organization that seeks to support and improve the experiences of women law students and lawyers. In 2010 the organization has recently increased its scope to improve the experiences of women law students outside of the United States via its Global Education Fund.
Joainne and Monica attend Makerere University in Uganda, a country where over 45% of women over the age of 25 have no schooling at all. In Uganda, men are over two times as likely as women in Uganda to have access to higher education. Even when women are able to enroll in university, paying for the education is still a challenge. Joaninne, for example, took on three teaching jobs during the first semester of her legal education in order to afford tuition. “A few weeks into the semester I [received] the scholarship [from Ms. JD] and my hopes [were] revived. It was the best news I had received in a long time,” writes Joainne on Ms.JD’s blog.
Investing in the education of female students like Joainne and Monica is not only a powerful tool in movement for educational equity, is one of the best ways to improve women’s positions in society. In particular, educating women helps them earn higher wages and participate more actively in the labor force and political sphere. According to the World Bank, educating women also has some less obvious benefits such as reducing child and maternal mortality, improving child nutrition and health, preventing the spread of HIV, and protecting girls from exploitation and abuse.
Ms. JD will be celebrating the Global Education Fund by hosting a reception featuring Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Deputy Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the New York Times bestseller The Dressmaker of Khair Khana tomorrow. For more information on the reception, visit the Ms. JD website.
Amana Gonzalez is the Executive Director of Ms. JD where she works to change the face of the legal profession.