The Year of the Woman

Women law firm leaders discussed attrition and harmful policies in a time where women hit an all-time high in law firm, business and government leadership positions

Female office and law firm leaders from Colorado joined Law Week Colorado managing editor Tony Flesor on April 3 to discuss what “the Year of the Woman” means for those already in leadership positions and those women who aspire to them one day. Participants were Heather Broxterman of Broxterman Alicks McFarlane; Heather Perkins of Faegre Baker Daniels; Shannon Bell of Kelly & Walker; and Christine Lamb of Fortis Law Partners. The conversation was reported by Hunter + Geist.

All-time Highs

LAW WEEK: From the outside perspective, it seems like within the past year or so, there’s been a real concerted conversation and effort that women are being promoted more toward leadership positions and public positions. In Congress, 2018 was considered the Year of the Woman. The number of women in the House of Representatives hit 127. But that was an increase from 20.6% to 23.7%. So that was the big increase. Female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies reached an all-time high of 6.4 percent. Women on board positions at Fortune 500 companies got up to 22.2% in 2017. And, in the law, equity partner positions made it to 20%. 

So there have been all these noted big gains, but the numbers are obviously still not at equal proportions or close to equal proportions. 

What do you all make of this “moment” that has been attributed to what’s going on right now? Whether you see the bright side or if it’s still kind of not really hitting the mark. 

BELL: I do think that what we are seeing, with some of the uptick in females in politics, is a glimmer of hope. But I think we are a long way away from having a solution and to having it be equalized. 

I think what we’re seeing in the legal profession and among CEOs is we’re still having a problem with maintaining the high-level positions. Although we’re seeing more people get opportunities earlier in their careers, I think there’s a lot of burnout, and there’s a lot of difficulty in maintaining them in that position to allow them to get to equity partner level, to allow them to advance all the way to CEO, to allow them to advance to a general counsel position.   

PERKINS: I would agree with that. I graduated from the [University of Colorado] in 1998, and I think I was in a class where there was real parity in terms of women and men, and women at the top of the class as well as men being at the top of the class. We start out with the same number of women and men going into the workforce from law school. And I was looking at some stats about the Mansfield Rule and the women and diverse lawyers who leave at different times, and it decreases and decreases and decreases. 

I also think that as a litigator — and maybe this is me seeing more of it, not being in denial on it and not wanting to believe in the good of all people — but I also see more willingness to behave badly toward women in professional settings than I did 10 or 15 years ago and when I first entered the workforce in the early ‘90s. 

BROXTERMAN: Well, we mentioned that we saw the highest numbers in Congress ever, and, you know, it’s great, but if we were actually making progress, we would have a watershed year every year, every time. 

While it’s tempting to want to celebrate that immediately and right now, we’re still on a journey. And I guess I’ve been surprised, honestly. I’m relatively a more recent graduate of law school. I graduated from law school in 2010, and I still am surprised in certain contexts about not treating pregnant women with dignity and respect. And it’s always still surprising. 

I recently brought my husband to an event, a cocktail hour thing, and we were meeting a bunch of people. At one point we introduced him to my partners, and I introduced him to someone — he was an older guy, 30 years older than my partner — who immediately cracked a joke about how he’d always wanted to marry my partner. And it was, like, we’re at a professional event. Do you have any work stories or anything about her work or her competence or her education? It was funny because at the time, my two female partners and I completely blew it off, and my husband, later that night, was still so shocked by it. And good for him, I’m glad he’s shocked, but it really spoke to the idea that sometimes, when you’re not in those positions and you don’t see that, it’s hard to really internalize how that feels and what it means.   

LAMB: I do think that the increase in the number of women on boards has been pretty significant. Part of me wonders if our profession, as a service profession, will have the sort of trickle down from that. It will take a little bit of time, first starting with those boards and those female CEOs and executives, and because we’re in the service of those people, we will be next because those board members and those CEOs are going to be looking around saying why are all of our lawyers white men? And so maybe we’re next.   

BELL: I think it ties in to what we’re seeing as far as equity partners, because the reality is for most law firms, to make equity partner, you have to have a book of business. And where are you going to get that book of business? You’re going to be obtaining that from CEOs. And you’re going to be obtaining that from general counsel. And women CEOs and women GCs are more likely to hire other women. So, until we see more of an uptick in CEOs and at the GC level, I think we are going to always be struggling to develop the book of business that you need to become and to maintain a position as an equity partner.  

PERKINS: I don’t know if you all are seeing this, but certainly, in a big law firm, we’re actually seeing clients more explicitly demand from us diversity in all measures on our teams.  And that is, frankly, good because it requires you to be thoughtful and intentional about giving opportunities and bringing people along. 

There is no way to motivate lawyers like telling them you will not get work unless you meet my needs, and this is one of my needs. But, I agree, it’s just going to take some time.  

BELL: I think there’s a balance there, because it’s the next wave of diversity, which is the balance you don’t want to walk into the room and be the token female on the team. That has nothing to do with your merit, your skill level, your ability. It’s: we want that company’s work, you’re available, sit at the table, but don’t really say anything. And that, to me, is part of the balance that we’re dealing with right now.  

BROXTERMAN: I think there’s something to be said about breaking the barrier and then, hopefully, it becomes easier for all the women to come afterwards. And just having mentors in place that I can look up to and I respect, I think, is important, and it’s become more and more important to me, like in hiring my own people, and really wanting to set a good example. 

It’s funny because, on the way over here, I was thinking about my firm mission statement. I run a female-owned family law firm. But being female owned isn’t in any of our marketing materials. It isn’t in anything that we focus on. But we’re focused on being really good at what we do. And I think, hopefully, it’s important that I can be an example of that first, and then, maybe someone else later.  

LAMB: And I think, to both of your points, to land the business, if they need that woman in the seat and they can’t land that business without her, then she gets credit in some way, shape or form for that client on her column because they can’t land the business without her. So, she’d better be getting the credit. And then she can use that credit when she’s up for partner to say, ‘I’m part of the reason why we have this book of business because you couldn’t land it without me.’ So then she’s not a token anymore, and then she’s got dollars attached to her name. 

But I think you’re right that it takes a woman who’s in a partnership position, maybe, to make that point. Look, if you’re going to bring that associate to land this business, she needs to be given credit. Then the male partners will be listening to it because, you know, they have a female partner who can voice that, and it probably never even occurs to them.  

PERKINS: I’m sure you have seen the research that found if you have, three women on a board, for example, decisions change, whether it’s compensation decisions or the decision-making processes. And I think it is not just bringing women to pitches but having them in positions of authority within firms and leadership. 

This Mansfield Rule, it’s basically a bunch of law firms that have signed on to an agreement where you have to at least 30% of the candidates for any position of authority — whether that’s office leader, management committee, depending on your structure, compensation committee, group leaders, things like that — you have to consider women or diverse candidates for that. Early indications are that that helps. Because if you’re actually making yourself pause and think not just who’s the guy who’s been standing around doing this stuff for a while, but who would be a good fit for this, that’s something that I think the intentionality about placing people in positions of authority and positions of leadership so that they are truly sitting at the table is key, absolutely key.  

The Current Climate

LAW WEEK: With the Mansfield Rule as an example, that’s something that sets a goal to hit. And as women fill more of those board positions also, that trickles down. I’m curious if it seems like there are the right systems in place, that things are moving in the right direction, or is there anything that you think is a little toothless in that way?  

PERKINS: I think there’s so much variation from place to place. In my particular firm, five of our 13 management board members are women, which is unusual.  

BELL: That is unusual. Congratulations.  

PERKINS: Thank you. And we have an executive committee of four partners, one of whom is a woman. Of our C-suite of nonlawyer folks, our chief marketing officer and our chief financial officer are both women; so half of our C-suite is women. I think that is a good thing, and that was one of the things that attracted me to my particular firm almost 20 years ago when I went there. There was a big group of women partners. At the time, I want to say we were 40% or so women partners for my particular office. 

I also recognize that’s unique, particularly when you gave the 20% equity partnership statistic, which has been the same number for two decades. But I think there’s a lot of variety from firm to firm.  

BELL: I don’t have the perfect answer yet as to how to address this issue, but one of the things that I’ve seen is a level of dissatisfaction because there is unequal treatment, that women — especially associates — need to be exemplary in the work that they do to be considered equal to their male counterparts who are doing O.K. And that leads to a lot of job dissatisfaction and a lot of frustration. 

I think what ends up happening, then, is that’s part of what leads to the feeling that I’m not happy here, I’m going to go try something else. And that’s where you get a lot of this turnover and then burnout. I’m tired of running and running and running, never to advance where I’m watching my male counterparts doing half the work I’m doing and succeeding.  

LAMB: I think we need to drill down on that attrition. Half of the associates coming in are female, and 20% of the partners are female. Where are these women going? And why? Are they at home? Are they leaving the legal profession entirely? Are they going in-house? Are they going into business? Are they quitting to have kids? Let’s unpack this attrition number and figure out what it is. Is it the job dissatisfaction, that they’re not getting the recognition? Is it that they had kids and they just got off track and now they can’t get back? Or what else is it about our profession that’s causing this massive attrition?  

BROXTERMAN: I think that is one of the most disturbing parts about it, because we’re seeing more law school graduates are women than men, and that’s been true for a while. More women are college graduates than men, and yet there’s this gap. And, I think what I’ve seen — and I’m in a smaller law firm, in the family law community — but I’ve seen a lot of difficulty with making the family life work balance, beginning in pregnancy.  

And I think there are a lot of reasons for it, some of which are not as nice as others. I have not experienced nearly the institutions that we’re talking about or the rules, and so my world has felt a lot more like the Wild West, and I’ve been surprised by the things that people have said and done, and not just men; other women.  

BELL: I don’t want to make judgment calls on generations. At least for me, I was very fortunate to have a wonderful supportive female mentor in my career, but a lot of people in my generation, the women above them had given up on having children. And it was this cross that they bore. And it was, “I paved this path for you. It’s easier for you than it was for me, but you still have to go through what I had to go through.” There wasn’t a lot of support. If anything, I think about 10–15 years ago, senior level women were much harder on junior level women than men were. 

I do see that there is a change in that, which is positive, which is leading to trying to prevent some of the attrition, trying to go into job happiness, trying to be more supportive of these unfortunate and inappropriate comments at cocktail parties and at business meetings. And I do feel that now women are better than ever at really mentoring and guiding younger lawyers, whether they work for them or not. So that, to me, is part of the sea change that we’re seeing, that’s going to hopefully increase these numbers.  

LAMB: I had worked for a female partner when I was an associate and I was pregnant with twins, and I went to her and said, “I’m pregnant with twins.” And she said, “Oh, that’s wonderful, I have twins, and I took one week off when I had my twins.” And I sat there going, like, I don’t know what to say to that. What do you say?  

BROXTERMAN: There’s nothing to say to that.  

LAMB: No. The policy certainly wasn’t that at the firm. But then I started thinking is there some sort of unwritten policy that I’m supposed to actually come back in a week? That’s not happening.  

So now I’m in my women-owned firm. My associate told me last week she is pregnant with a baby, and I’m, like, “That’s wonderful. What do you need?”  

BROXTERMAN: We’ll figure it out.  

LAMB: We’ll figure it out. So in one cycle, it’s, I think, completely changed.  

PERKINS: I think that’s true. I think that it’s also very important that, in addition to having policies that are good around maternity leave, that they actually be real. Because one week of leave when you have twins? Are you kidding me?  

LAMB: I didn’t take one, just so we’re clear; I left that firm.  

BELL: Good for you.  

PERKINS: But you have to have the policies, and you have to have the commitment across the organization, or otherwise you will lose people because it is just so hard to balance that with little kids. 

LAMB: I also think it’s about more than just time off, right? Because a lot of firms are, like, oh, we’re done, here’s our 16 weeks, full pay, and then they advertise that as if it’s like the best most female-friendly place in the world. Well, sometimes it’s not just about time off, it’s about some more flexibility around returning to work. 

I’ve heard of firms that provide career coaches to women on how to transition back, firms that have a list of back up child care providers in case your situation falls through in an emergency. I’ve heard of firms that, if you travel and you’re breast feeding, they will pay to ship your breast milk home for you because you’re at a deposition in L.A. I mean, there are so many things other than just: here’s your 16 weeks and then we declare ourselves female friendly.  

Juggling Expectations

LAW WEEK: Speaking of leave time, I feel like I’m split in two different directions because, one, it’s more than just mothers: It’s not that there’s not mothers staying in the law, it’s that there’s not women staying in the law. But the service industry mindset came up earlier. How much of that do you think plays into it? If you’re expected to always be billing hours, if you’re expected to always be available to your clients, is that fueling this mentality that you’re not expected to go and take care of whatever else you might need to take care of in your life?  

BELL: It’s a tough question because I don’t feel that that’s solely female-oriented or female-directed. I think you see that level of hour commitment to any successful partner in the practice of law. 

And the reality is it’s harder to be a partner. It’s much harder to have your own clients that you’re answering to than it is to answer to a partner. I’ve had many a time when I had a phone call at 6 o’clock on a Friday night from a client who’s in a panic about something, and I need to go do a cease-and-desist letter right then and there. That, to me, is being a partner; it has nothing to do with being a female. 

That’s just what clients expect. But that comes full circle to me in having good mentors. That that’s part of the practice. And I do think our male counterparts were more prepared for that than a lot of females were because they had someone above them telling them this is what to expect. If you want to be a good partner with your client, you need to be available. It’s not a 9-to-5 job.  

PERKINS: And I think that’s true across different-sized organizations. Your clients are your clients, and if they need you when it’s 5 o’clock in the morning and you’re there on the East Coast, well, guess what, you’re going to respond. So, it’s hard.  

LAMB: I think women actually are great multitaskers, generally speaking. I mean, that’s a generalization, but they are really good multitaskers. So once that’s explained to them, like through mentoring, they run with it, and they’re amazing at it. So, it’s understanding that you do need to be available 24/7. That doesn’t mean you can’t do other things, but you need to juggle, and we’re great at juggling.  

PERKINS: This is a whole other topic, but we’ve all gotten the 6 o’clock on a Friday call, and there’s nothing you can do in that moment, and I think this is true whether you’re a woman or a man, but there’s working with your clients to create relationships of trust where they know that you’re going to have their back and maybe they don’t have to call you at 2 o’clock in the morning, unless they have to call you at 2 o’clock in the morning. And that’s a whole other set of skills. 

BROXTERMAN: Well, I think that goes back to the service industry thing. Some amount of being in a service industry and being available to your clients is letting them know that they’ve been heard. Even if you can’t fix the problem in that moment, if you can reflect back, like, “I hear what you say, you said this, I understand why it’s important, I will get to that at this point,” or “Here’s my plan for getting to it.” And it’s really easy for me to just send that email off, like even late hours, if I see it. And I think it’s about their needs and letting them feel heard.  

BELL: I think some of the service aspect of it, it’s less about the clients and the work. I don’t think most women at this level are good about saying no to all the rest of it. Because we’re serving our children, we’re serving our spouse, we’re serving our friends. Once in a while we try to make time for ourselves, and that’s where the juggle is. And we’re usually pretty good at it, but it’s hard because we’re constantly juggling all this.  

LAMB: And maybe that’s part of the burnout, that’s why the attrition, is people say forget that.  

BELL: And I do suspect a lot of the male counterparts have more support on the home front. And the kids are fine, say, “Mom take care of it.”  

PERKINS: One of my mentors, when I was pregnant with my daughter, said something like, “Well, you know, you just have to equally divide the housework.”  

BROXTERMAN: It’s solved.  

PERKINS: Thanks.  

BELL: Such an epiphany.  

Responsibilities To Others

LAW WEEK: I want to go back to the mentorship concept. If we’re seeing numbers slowly ticking up as far as women in leadership positions, what do you think the responsibility is to mentor and make sure some of those institutional aspects do change? Whether it’s changing policies or whether it’s not letting someone get away with a comment at a cocktail party?  

LAMB: I think it’s a huge responsibility — sometimes overwhelming — because there’s not enough people bearing it, right? So, the three women that are on the board have to carry all the water on that. And the women partners that are on these committees, they have to carry all that. We’re a women-owned firm, so I think that’s the framework. I’m not the token woman; you know, we’re all women. So it’s less so in that environment. But in the places where the numbers are slowly growing, those women have a lot of responsibility.  

PERKINS: I think there’s responsibility in the community too. 

Some of my great mentors are not actually even inside of my firm. I kind of took somebody under my wing who was just out of law school, was at a different law firm, and we just happened to have a common interest in an industry and worked together over a number of years. And it’s been great for me to offer whatever wisdom I have, to try to impart it, and help her get away from the barbed wire fences I’ve run into over two decades. But, yeah, I think we have a responsibility not only within our organizations, but within the bar, however you want to define our legal community.     

BELL: I agree with that. That we need to be available to women wherever they need you. 

For example, I’m in the professional mentoring program through [the University of Denver], so I have a DU law student mentee every year. Right now I have three. But I’ve maintained the ones I’ve had in the past. I think I have eight total now. I introduce them to each other so we’re kind of building this network among each other and a support group. 

The other part, I think as we are getting more experience and probably feel more comfortable, I’m more comfortable walking into a room and telling someone how it is and how I feel — I’m not the shy wallflower that I was when I was a first-year associate — but talking to the male counterparts, talking to men in the room, and being comfortable saying, “Hey, I know you didn’t mean that, but that was inappropriate. You probably didn’t think about this, but that’s how it came across.” I think most men that I work with, they don’t want to be offensive to women; they’re very supportive of women, and they’re very supportive of what women are going through. It’s just they haven’t walked in those shoes so they don’t recognize where some of the steps may be. I’m just telling them and having a conversation.    

PERKINS: I agree with that. I know I said something earlier about being less willing to chalk things off and say people aren’t well intentioned. I actually do think most of the time people are well intentioned, they’re just not mindful and acting with empathy. Now, I also think sometimes people behave badly.  

Advice For Others

LAW WEEK: Going back to the mentoring aspect, is there anything that you would point out as advice for anyone else to seize opportunities or about what things to be mindful of in advancing their careers? 

LAMB: Advocate for yourself. A lot of women lawyers that interview with us undervalue themselves. They ask for lower salaries than the men that we interview, they don’t want to brag, and so they don’t advocate enough for themselves. 

Then we’re in a position of, well, this fourth-year male associate asked for this salary, and this fourth-year female associate asked for this salary. And she would have been perfectly happy if we had said, “O.K., you’re hired, and we’ll give you the salary you want.” No, we’re going to actually pay you what the position pays, not what you ask for. 

So I think some of the advice I’d give to some of the younger lawyers is don’t sell yourself short, and advocate for yourself more.  

PERKINS: I think self-advocacy is important. The people who I see succeeding in the law, whether they’re women or men, are intentional and go after things that they want to do. If you’re interested in getting a toehold in a particular industry, looking for a way to connect with people, whether that’s through a bar association or business association, writing, I think, is really helpful for establishing a reputation. And I think it can be a real opportunity for women if they will put themselves out there and look for those opportunities as well. 

I’m involved with an ABA forum, and we are always trying to be really intentional to have representation across geography, gender, diversity, however it is measured, for speaking and writing opportunities. And I’m assuming that a lot of other bar organizations similarly have those priorities. So if you get on those radar screens, you can get great opportunities because I think legal associations, bar associations, are trying to do the right thing and spread those opportunities out.  

BELL: I totally echo what both of you have said, and I would also say, within your own organization, find a champion. Find someone that’s going to go to bat for you until you become more comfortable advocating on your own behalf. 

We’ve talked about it a lot today, but I can’t emphasize enough finding a mentor. And I think, in particular, in the practice of law, it’s almost better to have a mentor outside your organization that can really be a place where you can vocalize every aspect of what you’re going through and not be concerned that it’s going to somehow come back and factor against how you are being evaluated within your organization. 

BROXTERMAN: Being in litigation is such a tough business with lots of ups and downs. It’s important to celebrate the victories and celebrate the good work and build that pool of I am good at this, I am confident in this work, I am proud of that brief, that trial, that whatever. And that’s important for men and women both. I’ll speak for me, that was important for me, to really build that reserve and build that confidence and know that it was good.  

Advice To Leaders

LAW WEEK: I’m also curious if any of you have advice for organizations in terms of how to head off some of these issues. You’re all in leadership positions yourselves. Is there anything that you’re mindful of that you see happen around you?  

PERKINS: Speaking for my organization, I do think the Mansfield Rule has been a good thing to do. I’ve watched it in action over the last couple of years. I used to be office leader in Colorado, and I stepped out of that and onto the board about a year ago, and we were looking for my successor, and there was kind of an obvious candidate. But, having the Mansfield framework in place, we actually thought about it. While we ended up going with the obvious candidate, who is absolutely the right person for the job, we also identified probably the next couple people. And I think that’s good. 

We were being thoughtful, intentional and really thinking about it and holding ourselves to a standard that I think is a good thing to do. 

Mansfield doesn’t necessarily work for everybody, but I found that to be kind of a useful tool for us to make us think and be intentional when we’re making those kinds of decisions. 

I also think the market places good external constraints on us because, you know, as policies improve in our competitors and it draws talent there, that causes us to re-examine what our policies are and how they’re implemented and if they’re real. And so that’s good. The market is good for that, and I think we’ve seen real improvements in the policies. I think Colorado’s probably been behind the coasts for a long time in terms of the benefits, but now this is such a desirable place to be, we’re really seeing improvements in that area. 

BELL: Be mindful when you are interviewing candidates: Who are you interviewing? Are you fully considering all diverse candidates that come to you? Are you evaluating them equally? What does your organization look like? If you were to take a snapshot, how does your organization appear to the outside world just from a visual standpoint? Also, have a space where I think some of the best resources of an organization are the people within the organization. Have a space where the people in the organization have a voice and you’re actually listening to the people within your organization before it’s too late. 

LAMB: Sometimes, I think firms and businesses have this top-down strategy of, let’s make the decision here at the top and let’s just add a woman to the top mix and then implement it down to the ranks, when they’re not talking to the ranks. 

These millennials have a different approach to work, whether they’re lawyers or whether they’re business people or whatever, and it’s not the same as it used to be. You need to talk to them. Maybe they don’t want just 18 weeks off of work for their maternity leave. Maybe they want to work from home because they’re super tech savvy and they would be an amazing asset. So get an idea from some of these millennials who are the lawyers that we want coming up. 

BROXTERMAN: One of the really nice things about the practice of law is that you’re always growing and you’re always learning and improving. I think millennials, in particular, are very motivated to do things that are really important and feel really meaningful. And the more that you can cater your organization to fulfilling that need, the more you’re moving in the right direction. 

Because on some level culture is everything. And if you can create a dynamic, fulfilling, hard-working culture, you do a better job, you have a better life, you have a better relationship with the people around you. And I think part of that is, as a leader, being willing to be self-reflective and receive input from the people around you, the people below you, as to, how things can be improved all the time.  

Recognizing Male Allies

LAW WEEK: Is there anything else that you’d like to bring up on the subject?  

BELL: Coming back to what Christine said earlier, there is this enormous pressure, I think, on women right now in the #MeToo movement, in the “Year of the Woman,” to not go too far, and to be respectful to the men in our lives. Because there’s this concern of a backlash and let’s just attack every man that we know and all men are bad, and that is, to me, going too far in the wrong direction. 

As we’re women leaders and trying to advocate women in the legal profession, in corporations, to help them get the advancement that they are entitled to, that they earned, that they deserved, to not make it all about “and you get that because men are bad.” That, to me, is one of the repercussions that we have to be really cautious of with the #MeToo movement. I may be in trouble saying that, but because I see the other side from a lot of men saying, “But I’ve never done any of that. Why am I now being victimized for what a couple of bad seeds did?”  

PERKINS: It has been kind of adversarial in certain instances. When we’re talking about bad actors, it probably has to be adversarial, but, yeah, we have to work together with our colleagues. I absolutely agree with that. And I think we it’s important to try and presume good faith, because if everyone devolves and goes to their corners, we don’t get anywhere, we just go in our corners.  

LAMB: I think it’s important to recognize the men that are doing such an amazing job on this. Like your husband for speaking out when the women had just brushed it off, and he’s, like, no, no. The men who they’re at the event at the bar, and they call out the other guy who’s saying something inappropriate. Recognizing the good men that are really doing almost more than women advocating for women. The men that are advocating for women are helping twofold to advance this. And maybe even to take some of the burden off the few women that get put in these positions, like, why can’t a white man be in charge of the diversity committee? They can.  

PERKINS: And they should be, frankly.  

LAMB: And they should be.  

PERKINS: I feel very strongly that you put a white guy on stuff like that, particularly one within the agency or organization, and that’s a good thing. And it shouldn’t be just, you know, like this is where we’re going to put all the women over here, right?  

BROXTERMAN: I agree with that. I think it’s important for it to be a dialogue. I think, especially in today’s political climate, there’s a lot of polarization and a lot of tendency to just make assumptions about each other and impute motives to one another and just shorthand for, “I assume you believe this or you feel this.” It’s important to have these conversations. We can’t not have these conversations. It’s important to have them, but it’s difficult and it’s a challenge to have them in a way that they can be productive and in a way that they can feel safe for everybody involved. Because if it feels unsafe, then people tend to react with silence or violence. So, if we can create safety, hopefully without safety and without dialogue, we’re never going to progress; we’re going to stay polarized and separate and not make progress.

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