Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends
A Fellowship to Expand Equal Opportunities for Women
Attorney Laura Wolf ’08 has made providing others with equal opportunity her life's mission.
Laura Wolf ’08, a Denver-based civil rights and employment discrimination attorney, has established a fellowship supporting Brandeis students who pursue unpaid internships focused on women’s rights and women’s education.
Created by a $15,000 gift from Wolf, the Dorothy Shapiro Fellowship in Women’s Rights and Women’s Education will provide $5,000 stipends to three Brandeis students over the next few summers through the Hiatt Career Center’s World of Work internship funding program.
The fellowship is named for Wolf’s grandmother, Dorothy Shapiro, whose parents could afford to send only one of their children to college. So they sent her brother.
Wolf, a Harvard Law School graduate, has made equal opportunity her life’s mission. She helped draft Colorado’s landmark Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which went into effect last year. The law prevents employers from paying one employee less than another for substantially similar work if the pay disparity is based on sex, and requires employers to advertise salary ranges.
“It’s doing wonders to close the pay gap,” says Wolf. “The onus is now on the employer to think proactively about what’s really driving compensation decisions.”
To learn how you can support World of Work internships, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 781-736-4000. Read more about the work of current WOW recipients, including the Dorothy Shapiro Fellow.
Wolf, who entered Brandeis knowing she wanted to go to law school, says a senior-year internship reviewing Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination case files solidified her interest in employment discrimination law.
“It opened my eyes,” she says. “If someone was terribly mistreated in their job and they weren’t a member of a protected class, they would have no case in court.”
Around the same time, Wolf learned her mother, a single parent to Wolf and her brother, had been pushed out of a job after having her first child. Wolf’s mom brought her case to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, received a rare probable-cause finding and ultimately secured a settlement.
After law school, Wolf joined a prominent Denver civil rights firm, where she eventually became a partner. She opened her own firm, Spark Justice Law, in May 2020, meeting with clients via Zoom from her home for the first year — “a good way to save on overhead,” she says — and taking on many cases resulting from the pandemic, from severance reviews in COVID-related layoffs to obtaining reasonable accommodations for the immunocompromised. As she was opening her firm, the Colorado Bar Association honored her with its Gary McPherson Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year award.
Wolf, whose voice turns giddy upon mention of her idol, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, spends as much as three hours each week talking with law students seeking mentorship and connections.
“It’s really hard to stay on the civil rights track,” she explains. “I don’t want interested students to slip out of our fingers.”
While a career in civil rights law is not for the fainthearted, Wolf is a self-proclaimed eternal optimist. She celebrates how far the effort to secure equal pay for equal work has come.
“But there’s still an endless amount of work to do when it comes to building women up,” she says. “I’m hopeful the Dorothy Shapiro Fellowship will allow Brandeis students to pursue an internship doing just that.”
From the Summer 2022 issue of Brandeis Magazine. Read the issue for more fascinating alumni stories and perspectives.
About the Author
Alexandra Stephens is the assistant vice president of advancement communications at Brandeis University. Since joining the Brandeis community in 2010, she has held numerous roles across student affairs, alumni engagement and communications, and has connected with hundreds of alumni and friends to help share their inspiring stories. Outside of work, she is a LinkedIn coach, yogi, home chef and mom of two.