As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I thought it would be fitting to share a little history and statistical data with respect to the TBBBA. Thanks to Judge McEwen’s archive, I learned that in 1990, just two years after the TBBBA’s inception, the mailing list of 900 names included 117 women, at least twelve of whom are active in bankruptcy in the Middle District today! Today, 36% of the TBBBA’s membership is female. I am the ninth female president of the TBBBA, following the legacy of Judge Colton, who was the organization’s first female president for the 1995-96 term, and nothing makes me prouder than to know that there will be countless women to follow.
While Women’s History Month may be over for the next 335 days, the importance of advancing the position of women in our society and our profession is year-long. A spontaneous buy several years ago at Fresh Market, my favorite refrigerator magnet reads: “Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” While I try to do my part with my four daughters, I also believe I owe it to current and future female colleagues to open wider the doors of opportunity that the trailblazers who came before me cracked open for my generation. And we have our work cut out for us—while approximately 50 percent of law firm associates are female, only 20 percent of equity partners are women. As for knowing strong women, I am grateful to have many strong women of character in my life.
The first woman who comes to mind is the one who has known me the longest. For the majority of my childhood, my mother was a single mother who raised three independent and highly-motivated women. She made sure our childhood was rich with experiences—trips to the Smithsonian museums in Washington (one of the perks of growing up in Northern Virginia), an endless supply of books, and fabulous adventures in Girl Scouts. My mom made so many sacrifices to ensure that my sisters and I received a good education and she always encouraged us to aim high in both athletics and academics. My mom pushed my sisters and me to dream without limits and work tirelessly towards those dreams. As a mama of five myself and knowing how much I rely on my husband to approach parenting as a team, I am in awe of all my mom has done and continues to do for my sisters and me.
Here in the Middle District, we are fortunate to have had a strong female presence in our bankruptcy court for more than two decades, beginning with Judge Jennemann. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously said, “I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]. And I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” It always makes me smile to know that of our currently sitting judges in the Middle District, more than half of them are female.
And I am a direct beneficiary of female judicial mentorship—I would not be where I am today without Chief Judge Delano, and my gratitude for her mentorship during both my clerkship and throughout the course of my career has only grown over the years. Judge Delano set an incredible example for balancing a demanding career with being a mom, and has always inspired me to strive to be my best self, as both a lawyer and mother. Judge not only provided me with an incredible foundation on which I have built my practice, but she also gave me the gentle push out of the nest by encouraging me to enter private practice when the time was right, giving me both roots and wings.
This month in particular, I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to lead our Board, and I want to take a moment to recognize the women who have led the TBBBA, those women who lead the TBBBA today with me, and those women who will lead our organization in the future. You inspire me, and I continue to be in awe of all your accomplishments within the TBBBA and throughout not only our local bankruptcy community, but also across the nation.
Stay well, and I look forward to reconnecting in person (hopefully) in the very near future.
Kathleen L. DiSanto
Bush Ross, P.A.