One hundred years ago, our country fought over whether women had the right to be heard.
In successfully advocating for the 19th Amendment, suffragists set in motion social progress that can still be witnessed today. Last year, the third-largest city in the U.S. elected its first female of color and openly gay mayor.
AABA Chicago acknowledged this historic event by honoring Mayor Lori Lightfoot with the Sandra J. Otaka Trailblazer Award, our bar’s highest honor, at our 32nd annual installation ceremony and awards reception.
Along with Mayor Lightfoot, AABA also installed its 14-member board, consisting of eight female Asian-Pacific American (APA) attorneys, including three of our five officers, and highlighting two female APA attorneys with our Justice Award and Rising Star Award.
While we have much to celebrate in the APA legal community, we still have a long road ahead. It is common to hear stories of the “bamboo ceiling” — APA attorneys recognized as hard workers but perceived to lack skills for leadership and business development. While the number of APA associates makes up 12.17% of all law firm associates, only 3.89% make partner. The numbers are more drastic for female APAs, who make up 7.17% of associates and 1.46% of partners.
As for the bench, APAs comprise just 2.6 % of sitting federal judges, and only 1% of them are women.
AABA President Gary Zhao recently expressed strong disappointment that no APA judicial candidates were appointed as associate judges during the judicial appointment process in Cook County. Only 13 of the over 400 judges in Cook County are APA, which is less than 3.5% of the judiciary. In comparison, APAs comprise roughly 5.7% of the U.S. population, and 7.9% of Cook County.
As APAs continue to face barriers and discrimination today, AABA Chicago brings together APAs to support each other, do good, and advocate for APAs in the legal community and beyond. Through our CLEs and social events, we encourage camaraderie and build a support network for our members. Our strong mentorship program connects members with local APA law students.
We partnered with the Public Interest Law Initiative this past year to host an Illinois Free Legal Answers Clinic, providing free legal advice through a virtual legal clinic to low-income Illinoisans who have nowhere else to turn.
With the advent of COVID-19, a surge of xenophobia and racist acts against the APA community have resulted, from verbal assaults at the grocery store to physical acts of violence on the street and hate spewed and defended on traditional and social media.
We applaud Gary Zhao who, on Fox 32 Chicago, affirmed that calling COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus,” “Wuhan Virus” or “Kung Flu” is a malicious attack that stigmatizes the whole APA community. Many of our members have become active on social media to combat racism and stand up for the APA community.
AABA Chicago is committed to offering support and advocacy during these trying times. Join us to #WashTheHate and move our community forward to a more just world.