Zoan T. Davila Roldan is a criminal defense attorney working in Puerto Rico. The views expressed here are her own.
Exactly one year ago, I was sworn in as a lawyer and started to practice. Sadly, throughout these 12 months, I’ve been called things like "baby" and "little girl," I've had my professional skills questioned because I look young, and people have expressed doubts about my efficiency as a criminal lawyer, just because I’m a woman. I’ve even been treated condescendingly by officials who don’t really believe I’m an attorney, even as they don’t question the male lawyer — bearded and with a tie — standing before me in the same line.
This year, a prosecutor was disrespectful to me while we were in court — to the point of being reprimanded by the judge — while my second chair, a man, was treated only with courtesy. I’ve heard other lawyers talking about the physical appearance of female prosecutors, about the way they dress, and associating the passion they use during oral arguments in court with the possibility of them being just as passionate in the bedroom.
I’ve seen colleagues — female lawyers like me — who have been asked if they are secretaries or attorneys. Women have been asked in their own offices if they can go and fetch "the lawyer." Other colleagues have been asked after a meeting if they can take out the trash, clean the area, or even bring coffee to the male attorneys. Sadly, for us as female lawyers, this is something we can experience every day.