The observance of Women’s Equality Day on August 26 in the United States is inextricably linked to the history of the fight for votes for women and an acknowledgment of the work that we still have left to do. The centennial of the 19th Amendment provides a meaningful opportunity to reflect on the celebration, compromises, and complexities surrounding women’s equality.

As National President of the Federal Bar Association, it is my esteemed honor to emphasize women’s equality in the practice of law. Women’s Equality Day provides the opportunity to shine a spotlight on a holiday that commemorates the day the 19th Amendment, which was certified to the Constitution on August 26, 1920, granting women the right to vote. (In the summer of 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment.) The 19th Amendment ensures women’s participation in our democracy, and it reads as follows:

The right of citizens of the United States to

vote shall not be denied or abridged by the

United States or by any State on account of sex.

Empowered women empower women, and men of quality encourage women’s equality.  Women’s Equality Day implores us to raise awareness about the importance of gender equality. The women’s suffragist movement was successful in large part because a group of passionate women (and men) banded together to activate change. The notion of working together toward gender equality must continue to be carried on from generation to generation.

One of my chief goals as the 10th female president of the FBA in its nearly 100-year history has been to help provide valued and valuable resources to female attorneys. As lawyers, men and women alike, we have a unique and vital role to play in guaranteeing that women’s legal, political, social, and economic equality is fully realized.

Additionally, as a female national bar association leader, I am proud that the FBA has long recognized that strength lies in equality and diversity, and that the law has served as a positive force for change. As the FBA marks Women’s Equality Day, we rededicate ourselves to the values of equality, equity, and justice for all.

The FBA is committed to promoting the welfare, interests, education, and professional development of all attorneys involved in federal law. With more than 19,000 members—including 1,500 federal judges—our members run the gamut of federal practice, from small to large firms to corporations and federal agencies. The FBA serves as a catalyst for communication between the bar and the bench as well as the private and public sectors.

The FBA resolves to create and foster an environment that contributes to the equal development and success of women attorneys and judges. At the FBA, members have limitless opportunities to expand their connections and advance their careers in an atmosphere that is equal, diverse, and inclusive.

It is critical for us to have productive and purposeful dialogues about equality in the context of voting, the gender pay gap, maternity leave, women in the law and leadership roles, and the struggle for reproductive rights, all of which continue to affect women’s daily lives.

It is my sincere hope that you engage in riveting and robust discussions about women’s equality to commemorate Women’s Equality Day. Celebrate it, define it, debate it, and delineate what equality in the next year, five years, and 10 years will look like. To what extent do the laws that we have in place support gender balance? Where do we need to improve? What have we succeeded in doing so far? What obstacles do we face in the fight for women’s equality?  Challenge yourself and others to consider these and other indispensable questions.  Examine how the law and the legal profession enables or constrains people on the basis of their sex, gender, sexuality, or identity.

As the 19th Amendment turns 100, I wish my fellow FBA members continued success along with inspiring, positive, supportive, and thought-provoking discussions surrounding Women’s Equality Day. I hope that you draw from the courage, strength, and example of those suffragists and equal rights advocates who fought for our rights a century ago and those who stalwartly continue to do so today. On Women’s Equality Day, we are reminded of why we are proud to be Americans and why we should support equality for all. Go forth and smash the glass ceiling!

Maria Z. Vathis, National President of the Federal Bar Association