Meet Stephanie Wan, new Joint Commission on Women in the Profession Co-Chair
The Joint Commission on Women in the Profession was formed in 2013 by order of the Supreme Court of Missouri and in conjunction with The Missouri Bar. The commission is charged with assessing the status of women in the profession, identifying barriers to their advancement, combating bias in the justice system and in the legal profession, and with securing full and equal participation of women in the legal profession. Stephanie Wan of Springfield was recently selected to co-chair the commission. In addition, Wan was named as co-chair of the bar’s open enrollment Women in the Profession Committee.
Wan is Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Greene County. She obtained her bachelor’s degree at Vanderbilt University and her JD at the University of Missouri School of Law in Columbia.
What are you hoping to achieve with your work on this commission and related committee?
As we watched the first woman (and a woman lawyer) to be elected Vice President of the United States, it seems like a great time to reinvigorate the Committee on Women in the Profession. My biggest goals are that the committee will provide education and CLEs pertaining to gender issues in the legal committee, address the pressing issues that are facing the women of The Missouri Bar, press employers and allies to work towards better equity among genders, make the forum a place where women can connect and discuss and collect critical information to help us achieve those goals.
I also want to elevate the voices of women lawyers so we can hear about their experiences and how they have overcome the many obstacles that exist in becoming a successful woman lawyer. Karen Glickstein and Megan Phillips, the former co-chairs of the Joint Commission have spearheaded so many great projects and I am hoping that we can build on their great legacies.
How will your experience advance the committee’s goals?
I have served in the Joint Commission since 2014 and run the Twitter account (@MoWomenLaywers – follow us!). I am very passionate about the issues facing women in the professional world. I don’t believe there is a single woman who hasn’t faced a slew of microaggressions or barriers in the legal field.
There are experiences that are common to all of us – from being mistaken for the court reporter to trying to figure out how to balance work and home. I am a minority woman and have faced many of those same issues and more. However, in the last seven years, I have also been a supervisor in my office and have learned firsthand (and made some mistakes along the way) how to even the playing field for women and how to mentor and sponsor women. Being able to understand and being able to learn and listen about the issues facing women in our field is one of the best ways I will help advance the open committee and the Commission.
How do you think the commission and committee benefit the profession?
There are some very obvious, tangible ways that the committee and commission has benefitted the profession. These are some of our concrete accomplishments since we have been formed:
We successfully advocated for revisions to Supreme Court Rule 6.06 governing the return to active status. We took this position because we recognized that there were quite a few women that went inactive because they chose to stay-at-home or needed to care for family members full-time or for other reasons. We found the requirements to go back to active status was a barrier to those women reentering the profession. Through our research and advocacy, we were able to get a change to that rule so that those who go inactive can more easily return to practice.
We have hosted and participated in several symposiums and training events addressing issues like implicit bias and successful networking/mentorship for women in the profession.
We successfully advocated for lactation accommodation in state courthouses.
We also accomplished a revision to the annual attorney enrollment form to include a checkbox for gender, which will facilitate analysis of women's representation in Missouri legal sectors going forward.
Moving forward, I want this committee to provide a network of women across the state who are ready, willing, and able to identify the pressing gender issues in our field. This committee can help to keep the pressure on the establishment, our allies, and ourselves to continue to commit to changes that will achieve gender parity in our profession.
How can lawyers get involved?
There are two easy ways to get involved! Join the open enrollment committee or apply to the Supreme Court Joint Commission on Women in the Profession. At our next meeting at the Fall Committee Meetings, I will be discussing some projects I hope to get off the ground and asking for volunteers to assist with some of those projects. I will also have a brainstorming session so we can discuss other ideas for projects and how we can better serve the women of The Missouri Bar.
Tell us something interesting or fun about yourself…
I have two awesome dogs – Oliver and Skye. They are also are strong believers in advancing women in the profession.
Do you have any final thoughts?
We are really hoping to have a very diverse group of attorneys on the Commission and the committee – including attorneys from different fields, different levels of experience (it’s important to know what issues are affecting those women entering the profession and those issues affecting women who are more established in their careers), and anyone else interested in this issue. Men, especially allies, are also encouraged and welcome to join.