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In an era when women’s hard-fought and hard-earned participation in the workforce is in peril, the ABA Criminal Justice Section’s Women in Criminal Justice Task Force (TF) continues its groundbreaking work of documenting challenges in hiring, retention and promotion of women criminal lawyers. Pulling Back the Curtain follows up on the initial findings of the TF. The findings are published in the Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law and the ABA Criminal Justice magazine. This report describes the results of a subsequent survey of diverse criminal lawyers and judges conducted at the end of 2020. The survey posed questions related to demographics; barriers related to hiring, retention and promotion; potential solutions; and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on work and life.

This report is divided into four sections: a brief review of the TF initial findings; methodology; survey questions and responses; and recommendations and next steps. Concluding that hiring, retention, and, particularly, promotion of women in criminal justice continue to be a problem, the follow-up survey also revealed the following serious obstacles: (1) limited flexibility with work schedules (which could be addressed, for example, through job-sharing, part-time work, and working from home), (2) insufficient wellness resources, (3) deficient training opportunities, particularly in state and rural criminal law offices, and (4) short supply of meaningful mentorship. Some employers seem receptive to change but many do not. This report shares high-level takeaways and recommendations to address the barriers faced by women criminal lawyers.

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ABA Criminal Justice Section

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