On March 10, 2015, Kelly M. Dermody, the managing partner of Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office and chair of the firm’s employment practice group, served as the keynote speaker at a celebration of Women’s History Month by the Command Headquarters of the Naval Supply Systems (NAVSUP) in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Employing a diverse, worldwide workforce of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel, NAVSUP provides U.S. naval forces with quality supplies and services.
Introduced by Rear Admiral Jonathan A. Yuen, commander, Naval Supply Systems Command and chief of Supply Corps, Dermody addressed the struggle for equal rights for women in the workplace.
"I never imagined I would be a lawyer," Dermody said. "In college, I took a semester off to go to Washington, D.C., to work for Sen. Ted Kennedy. It changed my life. I was assigned to Sen. Kennedy’s judiciary committee staff, and for five months I did research on Supreme Court appointments and civil rights legislation. I watched the passion the staff had for justice, and their sense of shared mission; it was inspiring."
"I also volunteered for a domestic violence hotline, and went through trainings that raised my consciousness around systemic barriers to independence and freedom, including poverty, racism, sexism, and more," Dermody explained. "I realized with every bit of my soul that I wanted to spend my life helping people who have been treated unfairly and to use the tools and power of the law to even the playing field for the little guy."
Dermody spoke about the many cases she litigated for her courageous clients to equalize pay between similarly qualified men and women, and to provide equal opportunity for women in sales and management positions. "We discovered that there were systemic gender issues," Dermody explained. She said that many women were passed over for promotions in favor of men who had no greater experience or qualifications than they, and many were paid less for doing the same job as men.
"Now in many industries, women are tired of pretending it is OK to be paid less or to keep quiet about problems," Dermody observed. "I am in awe of their courage and respect their choice to be the generation that says, ‘no longer."
"So, how do we fix this? We are witnessing a new generation of young men and women entering the workforce who have always competed with each other, been friends with each other, and think there is nothing unusual about female leadership," Dermody said. "I truly believe they will lead us out of this."