The History of the Coalition
Nicole Nehama Auerbach
Founder, Coalition of Women's Initiatives in Law
The idea for the Coalition came to me in 2007 when I was running the Women's Initiative in the Chicago law firm where I had worked for 14 years. I realized that a lot of other women in similar positions in their firms were facing the same issues as we were facing in ours (a) what's the business case for these initiatives; (b) how do we get internal and external support and engagement; (c) how do we create programming designed to facilitate the advancement, promotion and retention of women across the board.
The driving idea was that we would all benefit from harnessing the collective wisdom and power of many women facing the same issues rather than going it alone and reinventing the wheel in the process. To gauge interest, we sent out an invitation to as many women as we could think of who were leading their women's or diversity initiatives in their law firms and invited them for a breakfast meeting. We made one mistake, we failed to ask for RSVPs. It ended up being "standing room only" in a double conference room that holds a lot of people. We spent that first meeting going around the room, asking each person to only introduce themselves, say the name of their firm and describe in a sentence or two the "state" of their women's initiative or issues they were facing in the firm from that perspective. In an hour and a half we barely got all the way around the room.
We asked if people thought there would be a benefit to creating an organization that would allow us to come together and support each other in our efforts. The response was a resounding, "Yes!" Less than a year later, with the help of an amazing Steering Committee made up on mostly women partners at various firms, we officially launched the Coalition in 2008. As they say, the rest is history.
The response was a resounding, "Yes!"
Based on the success of and interest in the Coalition, we expanded membership from just law firms, to corporations and then expanded our Chapters to include New York in 2016, Washington, D.C. in 2019, and to form a National Board. While I may have been the brainchild behind the formation of the Coalition, I cannot take credit for what it has become. True to its name, it is a real "coalition" of both interests and efforts. The women who have stepped up to lead the organization, both from the committee and management standpoint have truly molded the organization into what it is today. We look forward to continuing our growth and continuing to help foster the advancement, promotion, recognition and retention of our many amazing members. While the need for Coalitions like this have not disappeared, we know that our efforts are paying off.