The groundbreaking study Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms, produced by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, revealed startling realities about the experiences of women of color in the legal profession. The report indicated that a number of obstacles, including a lack of networking opportunities, denial of assignments, unfair performance evaluations, and lower compensation have impacted the retention and advancement of women of color in the legal profession.
Empowering Women of Color (EWOC) was created to address these concerns and is the only organization at Columbia Law School (CLS) committed to championing the successes and combating the challenges faced by this community. As an inclusive organization, EWOC represents nearly 20% of the CLS student body and constantly works to improve the experiences of our membership at CLS and in their future legal professions. EWOC members represent multiple identities and intersect various ethnicities, genders, nationalities, orientations and beliefs. Understanding that serving this community is a complex endeavor, we meet this unique challenge through ongoing programming, mentorship, and networking opportunities.
"Empowering Women of Color (EWOC) exists to champion diverse women at Columbia Law School in light of the unique challenges they face in the legal profession. The group provides a safe space for collaboration and dialogue about issues relevant to women of color, supports members in their development as full participants in academic, professional, and personal communities, and strives to ensure that the greater Columbia Law School community is an environment where all members feel valued, respected, and empowered."
To achieve our mission, EWOC hosts several events throughout the academic year. These include career panels, faculty lunches, practitioner mixers, firm dinners, networking opportunities and study skills sessions. Additionally, EWOC empowers its members through community building and access to members-only resources, including our mentorship program, outline bank, hornbook library, and our extensive alumnae network.
Our programming begins as early as 1L Orientation with a social event where we meet incoming 1Ls and introduce them to our organization. Throughout the year, we focus on academics, professional development, student well-being, and social events. Our mentorship program includes pairing 1Ls with upper-year students as mentors and mentees. Throughout the year, social events include our Fall and Spring High Teas, where EWOC members have the opportunity to interact informally with faculty, professors, and staff. To support our mentorship and social programming, EWOC hosts an annual overnight retreat where 1Ls and upper-year students get to know each other, relax, take hikes, play games, and more.
Our academic component seeks to ease 1Ls into law school academics through outlining workshops, core course review sessions, and guidance on the journal application process. In addition to our focus on academic support, we have robust professional development programming. Our professional development programming covers both private sector and public interest careers and focuses on increasing access and resources to networking, information, and skills-building.
EWOC’s annual programming includes our Annual Conference and culminates with the Annual Constance Baker Motley Gala. Through these events, we bring women of color from across the country and legal profession to participate in panels and workshops, network, and celebrate trailblazing work.
The theme for the 2019 Conference was "Shaping the Future: Law and Innovation." The panels focused on how women of color can advance in conventional career paths, how to forge new career paths, and how to advocate on pressing issues and make change in our communities. Our panelists included firm partners, general counsel attorneys, non-profit directors, and more.
EWOC honors alumnae and other women of color who have made strides for the advancement of people of color, especially women, in the legal profession at the Constance Baker Motley Gala. Our 2019 Honorees were Deborah Archer, the Director of the Civil Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law, for her distinguished work in racial justice, civil rights, and criminal justice reform, and Liliana Zaragoza '13, Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., for her work in education, criminal justice, and voting rights.