Women’s Law Association Conference to Take Interdisciplinary Look at Equality

BY JOEY SEILER

Last year’s keynote speaker at the Harvard Women’s Law Association Conference, Valerie Jarrett, drew a standing-room-only crowd to Ropes Gray. Conference organizers hope for a repeat this year on Feb. 11, 2011.

The theme for the fifth annual conference is “This is What Equality Looks Like: The World We Want for Women & Girls,” and the conference reflects the broad theme. Conference organizers have reached out to other parts of the Harvard community, including the Kennedy School, Masters of Public Health students, and undergraduates. 

“We’re really hoping for a diverse audience,” said Conference Co-Chair Poppy Alexander. “It was a priority for us, making sure this was an event for the entire campus. We bring in some truly excellent speakers, and it’s a unique opportunity to have that many people from that many fields in one room and we want to share that.”

The programming, which includes panels on equality in health, economics, the judiciary, and for girls stretches beyond traditional law school fare. Although these are the major ways lawyers tend to discuss equality, said Alexander, the goal is to reach women who don’t frequent Langdell, including a group of local Girl Scouts who have already registered. 

Those more interested in the legal side of things won’t feel left out, though. A panel on “Equality on Both Sides of the Bench” brings together, among others, the Honorable Deborah Batts of the Southern District of New York and Lisa Blatt, a partner at Arnold & Porter who, with her thirtieth argument before the Supreme Court, just set the record among women litigators.

“It’s amazing to have someone of that caliber in a friendly conversation with the judge, who would normally be on the other side of the bench,” said Alexander. 

Keynoting the event is Russlynn H. Ali, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. A veteran education advocate, Ali reports to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as his main adviser on civil rights and education. 

“Russlyn Ali is a truly inspirational person who speaks her mind, lives her beliefs, and makes the lives of women and girls better every day,” Lecturer on Law Diane Rosenfeld L.L.M. ‘96 told the Record via email. Rosenfeld counts Ali as both a colleague and friend after the Secretary attended Rosenfeld’s Title IX seminar in 2009 and the two collaborated to raise awareness of schools’ roles in preventing sexual violence on campus. 

“Everyone should come hear her talk about the innovative leadership she provides as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Civil Rights of the US Department of Education,” said Rosenfeld. “She has transformed the Office into a place that takes seriously women’s rights to equality in education. We are honored to have her on campus.”

For more information and to register, visit the conference website.

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