November 27, 2000
O'Connor urges women
By Stephanie Sonnenfeld firstname.lastname@example.org
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day OConnor didnt come to Emory
to speak about the law, the courts or women in law. Rather, she urged
women to pursue careers in the business world.
I believe that one of the best ways to obtain equality in our
society is to pursue a successful career in businessand that one
of the best ways for businesses to succeed in our economy is to pursue
women, said OConnor, during a Nov. 13 speech in Glenn Auditorium.
Going Where Few Women Have Gone Before was the 2000 Rosalynn
Carter Distinguished Lecture in Public Policy. OConnor was slated
to deliver the lecture last January but was unable to fly to Atlanta due
to inclement weather.
The fact is, big business needs women for obvious reasons,
she said, noting that women executives give businesses a chance to tap
into the mind of the female consumer, and women have long proven their
strengths as managers. Women may bring more to big business than
an understanding of consumer preferences.
They bring flexibility and sensitivity to the stresses fellow businesswomen
may face, she said. By serving as role models, every successful businesswoman
encourages other women to enter the business world.
But, OConnor asked, why are there so few women in the upper echelons
of the business world? Why arent more women going to business schools?
The seeds of the problem are probably planted long before a woman
is choosing her career, OConnor said. To many girls
and young women, business evokes images of factory lines, industrial accidents
and worker unrest. Given such images, its no wonder girls express
so little interest in going into business.
We as a society need to teach girls that business is about making
deals, solving problems, working with people and keeping the economy going.
OConnor proposed that companies sponsor internship programs for
high school students, and for schools to bring local businesswomen into
the classrooms to show female students just what opportunities exist for
them in all areas of the business world.
Business schools also need to recruit more female students and create
more flexible courses of study, she added.
The business schools must continue to get out to women the message
that an MBA is the perfect degree for a lot of women, giving their careers
self-control and flexibility, OConnor said.
Moreover, society needs to emphasize to women that getting a graduate
degree in business will enable them to contribute to society in more meaningful
ways and to perhaps lead more meaningful lives themselves,she said.
Changing the face of business may not be OConnor's area of expertise,
but blazing new trails for women is.
After finishing third in her law class at Stanford University, serving
as a deputy county attorney in California and working as a civilian lawyer
for the Quartermaster Corps, OConnor had difficulty finding a private
sector job because of her gender.
She started her own practice and was appointed as Arizonas assistant
attorney general in 1965. She was appointed to the Arizona State Senate
in 1969 and was elected to two terms, serving as senate majority leader
in her last term. In 1975 she was elected to the Maricopa County Superior
Court and four years later to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
In 1981, OConnor was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President
Ronald Reagan, making her the first female justice of the nation's highest
Following her lecture, OConnor answered questions submitted from
students such as what issues she thinks the Supreme Court will face in
the future and how lawyers go about clerking for a justice.
One of the last questions drew laughter from lecture moderator (and former
first lady) Rosalynn Carter, OConnor and the audience.
How likely is it, Carter read, that another woman or
person of color will be appointed to the Supreme Court by the president-elect?
After a moment, OConnor answered her question very judicially:
Who can say? We don't even know who [the president-elect] will be?