I am deeply moved and honored to be inducted into the Impact Fund Class Action Hall of Fame. This is a special organization run and supported by exceptional people. Your work is vital. I am in awe of this group and applaud your steadfast commitment to social justice. Thank you for what you do every day to make the world a better place.
We are in the fight for equality and social justice together – as we must be – because the issues are bigger than any one of us alone. One person can make a difference. Indeed. But we know “The Collective” is stronger, more powerful and more effective. Now more than ever, as our country has become more divided, we need the Impact Fund, counsel and colleagues here today, to work together to make a difference for the good.
In my case, after a 30-year career in Big Law, the day came when I had to ask myself: Am I going to sit back and quietly tolerate blatant gender inequality in pay and power in Big Law? I realized the gender pay gap problem was bigger than me and my law firm. With daughters entering the workforce, it was high time to do something to keep all our daughters from being underpaid and treated like second-class citizens in the workplace.
I decided to take a stand for equal pay and power, for myself and other women who couldn’t or wouldn’t. By golly, if a law firm would not even acknowledge, much less stop discriminatory practices in pay and power, then it must be held accountable in a court of law. But there was no way I could do it alone. I needed a lawyer and law firm on my side willing to take on the Big Law establishment. That was a tall order.
I will forever be grateful to David Sanford and his firm, Sanford Heisler Sharp, for listening to my story, taking my case and relentlessly fighting for me and other women through two years of contentious litigation that produced extraordinarily positive results. From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you David, Ali, Saba, Andrew and the entire firm that took on my case when others would not. I am so grateful and proud of all of you.
I think we all shared the sense that litigating this case was the right thing to do at the right time. At times, it was hard, lonely and humiliating (denigrating plaintiff’s competence is a routine defense tactic). I was isolated, told to leave, my pay was cut off and I was publicly expelled from my firm – with the votes of every one of my female partners. That was tough. I’m sure it was no picnic for Team Sanford.
But the difficulties were far out-weighed by the positive outcome. This journey has been personally enlightening and professionally empowering.
Here is the most important thing I have come to learn and believe – from the eloquent words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – which reflect the sentiments of my own heart and with which I fully agree:
“A time comes when silence is betrayal. We must speak truth to power, even when it is the most difficult task.”
For 30 years, I worked hard to build a career advocating for truth, equality and even-handed justice – for my clients. How could I have fought so hard for others but not myself?
To make a difference for the good, to be true to myself, I had to break the betrayal of my own silence and speak truth to power. I am so glad that I did. I have no regrets.
Sometimes, we don’t realize that taking a stand for equality and social justice can give people we don’t know hope and strength they need not to give up in the face of disheartening injustice. As a person from humble roots, it amazes me to hear from women who tell me that my journey has encouraged them to speak out against injustice they face in their own workplaces.
We need to break the betrayal of silence and empower others to speak truth to power, until it’s no longer necessary. I commend The Impact Fund’s commitment as a powerful collective to lead the fight for equality and social justice.
Thank you for this wonderful honor that means so much to me and my family.