Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Great Article on Gender Balance

Avivah Wittenberg-Cox posted a great note yesterday on How One Law Firm Maintains Gender Balance.  Absolutely a must-read for every law firm that is mystified about why its women's initiatives, networking programs and diversity efforts don't seem to be working.  The problem:

The solution?  Read the article.  Hint:  It's not about "fixing the women."

Monday, May 12, 2014

“Stop interrupting me.” “I just said that.” “No explanation needed.”

Today a young woman lawyer asked me, at our casual mentoring lunch, if I had been blogging much lately, and I mentioned that my posting rate had fallen off a bit since 2008 for a variety of reasons.  I've been a lot busier since moving firms last July, and I'd also excused myself from writing since the unique issues faced by women professionals seems to get so much more media coverage now than it did five years ago.  I also noted that perhaps I didn't really feel as if I had anything more to say on the topic.  But when I got back to my desk and found Soraya Chemaly's recent article 10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn, in my facebook feed, I realized that I do still have some things to talk about.  I get interrupted by men all the time--this morning in a phone call with a federal regulator I could barely finish a sentence without being interrupted, and at one point I did in fact say "please let me finish my thought" after I'd been interrupted several times.

Ms. Chemaly also writes about a cartoon sent to her via Twitter, in which one woman and five men sit around a conference table. The caption reads, “That’s an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.” She observes that there's probably not a woman alive who has not had this happen to her.

Me too--just last week!  In a phone call with a long time client, discussing a particularly vexing problem the client has been having with a government regulator, there were two business people on the call and two lawyers.  Some time ago the woman CEO and I had addressed the problem and arrived at a basic strategy that was the point of the conference call in preparation for an important meeting.  The dynamics of that call perfectly demonstrated the phenomenon of "mansplaining":  the preference for what men have to say.  The male lawyer explained, over and over again, the facts and strategies developed and proposed by my client and me.  As if we didn't understand our own facts, analysis, and proposals.  Agh.  At the time it was just tedious, but in light of Ms. Chemaly's article I suppose it is still a good idea to share the experience, and to keep the issue front and center.

Anyway, I highly recommend the article, and I suggest that we all memorize--and use frequently--these ten words.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ellen Ostrow's Creditable Advice

Ellen Ostrow posted some astute observations on women lawyers and origination credit in her article Getting Credit Where Credit is Due.  Being overlooked for credit for bringing in work is a pernicious problem, perhaps one that is less and less intentional on the part of compensation committees, but still a problem none the less.  She covers all of the important habits and strategies that women in private practice need to work on every day.  But her closing is the best I've read on this topic in a while:  Never give up.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Handling Conflict

Women in the workplace face special challenges in dealing with conflict.  Having watched many of my mentors, role models, peers, and younger women new to the workplace over the years, I am convinced that it is how women handle conflict that determine success, more than any other factor.  Yes, competence is essential, but without the ability to handle conflict appropriately a woman will rarely move up the ladder into a leadership role.

Fortunately, the ability to handle conflict can be learned.  It's not taught in school, but there are resources.  An upcoming webinar on April 8, 2014, "Women's Leadership: Handling Conflict with Confidence and Tact" promises to help women leaders handle the inevitable emotional clashes that are bound to come along.

The webinar reminded me of one of my early posts, a book review of Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project.  There's a new edition that was published after my book review.     In the 10th-anniversary edition of the New York Times business bestseller-now updated with "Answers to Ten Questions People Ask," the authors examine how
We attempt or avoid difficult conversations every day-whether dealing with an underperforming employee, disagreeing with a spouse, or negotiating with a client. From the Harvard Negotiation Project, the organization that brought you Getting to Yes, Difficult Conversations provides a step-by-step approach to having those tough conversations with less stress and more success. You'll learn how to:
* Decipher the underlying structure of every difficult conversation
* Start a conversation without defensiveness
* Listen for the meaning of what is not said
* Stay balanced in the face of attacks and accusations
* Move from emotion to productive problem solving
If you prefer old fashioned paper books, it's still available on Amazon.  Get the paperback new or used, or download the Kindle version. You'll be glad you did, I promise.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


It is nice to see the conversation about women evolving, and the topic is as important today as it was four and a half years ago when I started this blog.  The Ark Group’s East Coast Women Legal 2014 forum includes some great speakers and perspectives that promise a rich a conversation concerning the challenges, opportunities and benefits involved in accelerating the progress of law firms embracing a culture of men and women as allies—while again providing a unique platform for women to view their own power differently and "take ownership” of their careers in a profession that currently does not support their advancement in ways that it should.  Ark Group believes that

Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind work-place where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.  There are new voices being heard in the women’s movement coming from leaders like Sheryl Sandberg as well as from countless millennials entering the workplace. Are they changing the focus and the discussion around “women’s issues?” Are these perspectives (some being framed by various authors and the media) helpful to women or do they play into and encourage bias? With the future of the legal profession uncertain and law students graduating with fewer jobs to fill, the messaging to women law students and lawyers is more important than ever.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Food for the Day

It's been a while since I posted, partly too busy, too distracted, mostly my pipeline of ideas was under construction.

Here are a couple of items of interest, that maybe will jump start things:

Large law firms are failing women lawyers

February 18, 2014

Selena Rezvani, author of “
Pushback: How Smart Women Ask—And Stand Up—For What They Want.”
The Washington Post

While law firms have been leaders in the workplace at flex-time and part-time arrangements, affinity groups, women’s networks, and a lock-step compensation approach partially designed to combat gender pay disparity, female associates still remain one of the unhappiest portions of the national workforce.  The author cites high billable hour requirements and hidden rules of the game as two reasons for the lack of women represented in the higher ranks of law firms.

Is there a gender pay gap? Most surveyed law firms wouldn’t provide the data

February 26, 2014
Debra Cassens Weiss
ABA Journal

The National Association of Women Lawyers released its annual study recently and it suggests that women are being paid less than men at law firms.  The study requested responses from the largest 200 firms nationally and received 92 responses.  There was significantly less participation in the study this year as compared to last year with 33 law firms that had previously participated declining to do so this year.  One reason for this, the study suggests, is law firms may be reluctant to release negative data on female representation.  Many firms also refused to answer compensation questions, but for the firms that did respond, NAWL found a positive correlation between pay for women attorneys at firms that had two or more women at the firm’s highest governing levels. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Women Leading Law Firms--One Step at a Time

Well I do think it is progress every time a woman reaches a significant law firm leadership position.  Small steps.  Yes, it still is a rarity, as noted by Catherine Ho in the Washington Post yesterday.

I'm still happy to see it happen.