While I have seen a bit of this prejudice as a woman lawyer in the work place, I have had a completely positive experience as a woman lawyer in the Church: During law school, I was a member of a Young Woman presidency and an advisor to the 12- and 13-year-old girls in my LDS ward. Following law school, I have held teaching and leadership positions in family and student wards, and am currently Relief Society president in a family ward.
In spite of my positive experiences, I have wondered whether the note to my classmate was just a prevailing attitude of 1999, or if it still exists in 2010. If I were to experience this prejudice now, how would I respond? What other difficulties do women lawyers in the Church experience that go beyond bias in attitudes? And most importantly, what can we do to rise above any such negativity?
I don't have answers to all these questions, but I DO know that whether we are practicing our profession or not, we women lawyers, including women lawyers of faith, have received a valuable education and learned skills that make it possible for us to be a significant force for good in our families, our faith, and our society.
I take great comfort in the following words of the late President Gordon B. Hinckley, which I believe represent today's views on all women in the Church, including women lawyers:
"In this day and time, a girl needs an education. She needs the means and skills by which to earn a living should she find herself in a situation where it becomes necessary to do so.
"The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. I am grateful that women today are afforded the same opportunity to study for science, for the professions, and for every other facet of human knowledge. . . .
". . . Set your priorities in terms of marriage and family, but also pursue educational programs which will lead to satisfying work and productive employment in case you do not marry, or to a sense of security and fulfillment in the event you do marry. Education will increase your appreciation and refine your talent." (Excerpts from "How Can I Become the Woman of Whom I Dream?" General YW Meeting, Ensign, May 2001.) --Susannah Thomas, SLC, UT; WIL Committee; BYU Law '02