The Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Network works to advance women’s-focused leadership and ensure the success of women in public life and the law. We carry out our mission through three core pillars of service: we provide top-notch leadership development opportunities for NYU Law students; we create dynamic public programming and offer a robust line-up of live and virtual events; and we lend our voices and expertise to advocacy and media initiatives that elevate and promote gender equity.
NYU Law’s historical commitment to gender equity has shaped the legal profession over the past century, with NYU Law-educated women leading in all arenas and shattering glass ceilings.
- Starting in 1892, NYU Law embarked on a proud tradition of training extraordinary female lawyers with the graduation of Rose Levere, Agnes Mulligan, and Julia Wilson.
- As reported by Phyllis Eckhaus ’85 in her 1991 NYU Law Review article, “Restless Women: The Pioneering Alumnae of New York University School of Law” (PDF: 1 MB), NYU Law had graduated more than 300 women by 1920, the year the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified.
- In 1922, Anna Jones Robinson and Enid Foderingham Thorpe were the first Black women to graduate from the Law School; Robinson became the first woman of color to be admitted to the New York bar.
- Nationwide, women made up only 4.4 percent of entering JD classes by 1966. That same year at NYU Law, the number of first-year women law students was more than twice that — just under 10 percent. By 2022, women comprised 57 percent of NYU Law’s entering class.
Yet within the legal profession, and at law firms in particular, the numbers tell a different story. In its 2022 Profile of the Legal Profession, the American Bar Association found that while female lawyers comprise 47 percent of all associates and a third of non-equity partners, they represent only 22 percent of equity partners. Per the ABA’s 2020 Left Out and Left Behind report, women of color comprise almost 15 percent of all associates and below 4 percent of all equity partners.
And more broadly, we face challenging political headwinds — domestically and globally. Reproductive rights, bodily autonomy, and myriad freedoms we hold dear are under attack. Our systems of democracy, essential to the pursuit of gender justice, face real degradation and strain.
More than ever, NYU Law’s commitment to women’s leadership in the field of law is essential — and the BWLN proudly meets that need by serving as a crucial hub for thought leadership and influence.