In 2011, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Amy Ellis Nutt led an EBG Women’s Initiative program entitled “Shakespeare’s Daughters: Narrative, Nature, and Why Women Make Good Storytellers.” We are pleased to pass along the news of Amy’s new book, Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, which tells the true story of family acceptance and embrace of their transgendered child. Amy, an exceptional storyteller, provides a moving account of an unexpected parental journey, familial devotion and individual self-awareness – along with solid information. Amy handles the subject matter with insight and a view point that is refreshingly free of sensationalism. The book has garnered excellent reviews, including this week from the New York Times. We commend the book to you and we congratulate our friend.
Employment Law This Week (November 2, 2015) has released bonus footage of its interview with attorney Susan Gross Sholinsky, a contributor to this blog and a member of the Women’s Initiative of Epstein Becker Green.
As Ms. Sholinsky discusses, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a series of bills aimed at battling gender bias in the workplace and addressing fair pay, pay transparency, sexual harassment, accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions, and more. This follows Governor Jerry Brown’s signing of the California Fair Pay Act in early October.
Corporate America still has a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the workplace.
According to a comprehensive study by Lean In and McKinsey & Company, Women in the Workplace 2015, women remain underrepresented at American companies, from entry level to the C-suite. The greatest disparity occurs at senior levels of leadership.
The study’s authors offer several key findings. For one, the leadership ambition gap persists and women find the path to leadership disproportionately stressful. Another finding is the uneven playing field women experience: The study concludes that women are almost four times more likely than men to think they have fewer opportunities to advance because of their gender. Senior-level women believe their gender is a greater disadvantage than entry-level women do, and are significantly less satisfied with their role, opportunities for advancement, and career than their male counterparts.
In addition, while a majority of companies offer flexibility and career development programs, many women and men are not using them, out of fear of being penalized. More than 90% of women and men believe that taking extended family leave will hurt their position at work, and more than 50% believe it will hurt them a great deal.
Yet another key finding points to the different networks that men and women have. With men having predominantly male networks and men holding more senior leadership positions, women may end up with less access to senior-level sponsorship. Inequality at home, in which women report having more responsibility for childcare and household chores, also affects the challenges women face in juggling home and work responsibilities.
Sheryl Sandberg wrote this about the study in The Wall Street Journal, on September 30, 2015: “[A]t the current pace of progress, we are more than 100 years away from gender equality in the C-suite. If NASA launched a person into space today, she could soar past Mars, travel all the way to Pluto and return to Earth 10 times before women occupy half of C-suite offices. Yes, we’re that far away.”
The progress we’ve made toward gender equality belies the studies that show that greater diversity and inclusion are better for business and can provide a competitive advantage. According to the Women in the Workplace 2015 study, companies say that diversity is important and they want more women in leadership positions. So what should companies do to achieve greater gender diversity? Lean In and McKinsey & Company make some suggestions, although they note that there is no “one size fits all” solution.
First, they recommend that companies track key metrics (e.g., performance reviews and promotions, compensation across women and men in similar roles, and attrition) to determine what is working and where they can improve.
Second, senior leadership should invest time and money in a genuine commitment to gender diversity (e.g., setting gender-specific objectives and holding leaders accountable for reaching them).
Third, organizations should train their employees to identify and counteract gender bias in hiring and performance reviews.
Fourth, employee programs should not inadvertently penalize participants, and management should support the employees’ decisions to utilize such programs, such as family leave.
Finally, companies should create a level playing field for women and implement systems that support women (e.g., formal mentorship and sponsorship programs and networking events).
The report serves as a good reminder that gender equality continues to lag. Awareness is important, but action even more so.
When I learned that Epstein Becker and Green had been named among the “50 Best Law Firms for Women” by Working Mother magazine and Flex-Time Lawyers for 2015, I was not surprised. Nor were any of my female colleagues here at EBG. We know firsthand that our firm is the real deal when it comes to supporting, retaining and advancing smart, hard working women at every level of their careers.
According to Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers, inclusion in this meaningful list means that EBG is among the 50 firms that have been “recognized for their family friendly policies and career and business development initiatives that are helping to retain women attorneys and advance them into the leadership pipeline.” This year’s award measures firms on such factors as representation, flexibility, leadership, compensation, and advancement of women, as well as development and retention of women.
Jennifer Owens, editorial director of Working Mother Media, says, “The 50 Best Law Firms for Women are setting and pushing forward the standard when it comes to retaining women—and advancing them to the very top, equity partnership. These firms are also committed to creating best practices that support working parents.”
Deborah Epstein Henry, president of Flex-Time Lawyers LLC, adds, “Law firms that focus exclusively on flexible and reduced-hour policies to retain women or solely on getting women in power seats are missing the mark. We see our Best Law Firms for Women that are having the most success to be the ones that understand the value of focusing on both retention and promotion simultaneously. They are cultivating female talent to facilitate that they get the good work, the skills, and the flexibility they may need. Yet they are also investing in women with business development and leadership opportunities to ensure they have a strong presence and voice in the equity partner ranks, the governing committees, and in running the law firm as a business.”
EBG understands all of this. Women here are represented at all leadership levels, including on the firm’s Board of Directors, in senior management, on practice steering committees, and in key working groups. The numbers are impressive:
- 100 percent of EBG attorneys elected to shareholder status in 2014 were women;
- 54 percent of the attorneys hired in 2014 were women;
- Women represent 30 percent of EBG’s combined equity and non-equity partnership and 21 percent of EBG’s equity partnership (which is above the national average of 17.3 percent equity partners in the legal profession, as reported by the National Association of Women Lawyers); and
- 20 percent of the firm’s Board of Directors are women.
The leaders at EBG have realized something that I wish more law firms (and more employers in general) would understand – a commitment to diversity and inclusion, including the advancement of women lawyers in the workplace, is a mutually beneficial investment that pays off in spades. When a firm places emphasis on fostering, supporting and promoting all its talented lawyers, no matter their gender, the result is good for the firm, the clients and the individual lawyers. EBG is a stronger, more effective and successful law firm because of its commitment to this effort, and I’m proud to call EBG my professional home.
Congratulations to EBG for this fantastic recognition!
Sometimes, getting out there to connect with clients and contacts can seem like just one more chore on our already long list of “to do” items. Building a network can be serious business, but recently EBG’s Women’s Initiative turned it into a laughing matter. On June 25 we gathered at New York’s Gotham Comedy Club for an evening of stand-up comedy presented by women (and a couple of male) comedians. The networking was fun and the entertainment was a hit.
I have long felt that the debate over working mothers versus stay-at-home moms is largely fueled by a desire to perpetuate perceived (though not necessarily actual) cultural norms. Why should we feel guilty about working? Many women work outside the home because they must, but the truth is that necessity does not equate to reluctance.
Many of us want to work and feel that doing so benefits not just ourselves, but our families. Claire Cain Miller of The New York Times recently reported on a study of 50,000 adults in 25 countries that backs us up. The study showed that having a working mother yielded “economic, educational and social benefits for children of both sexes.” This is great news for women who must work and also for those who choose to do so.
The evidence is mounting that “opting in” is better for their children than “opting out.” Many of us could have told you that already, but it’s nice to have the data to back it up.
For those of us who are weary of all the advice on how to dress for success, may I suggest Women in Clothes, edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton?
The book presents essays, photos, drawings, and survey responses addressing women’s connections to their clothes. And let’s face it, most of us tend to fixate on our clothing: What to wear? Do we look fat? What’s our “season?” What’s everyone else wearing? And all of the rest – choosing baby clothes, dressing our daughters, shopping with friends, watching the “red carpet,” and on-and-on. Sometimes it’s fun, and other times, not so much.
Women in Clothes embraces women finding their own style. A quote by art historian Alexander Nagel provides an cogent definition of style: “The state in which one feels the least separation between one’s character and one’s body.”
What does that mean when we dress for work? For Matilda Kahl, Saatchi & Saatchi art director, it means wearing the exact same outfit every day. Stylish white silk blouse, slim fit black pants, and a black blazer when the weather turns cool. Her essay in Harper’s Bazaar explains her reasons for choosing and staying with a personal uniform – including stress reduction and a hefty reduction in her clothes budget. The notion has been applauded by many who read the piece, even to the point of the Brian Lehrer Show on our public radio station WNYC running a week-long listener event for women to select an outfit to wear every day for a week and to post a photo of their selected “uniform” with the tag #1Week1Outift. Interesting to ponder how a self-imposed work uniform changes one’s daily routine and outlook.
Clothes, confidence, success, style. Live, learn, experiment, and find what works for you.
Many of us wonder how to grow a network, make an impact, and make a difference. Get an idea, do some leg work and then run with it is one way.
After recognizing the need for more collaborative action across the health care industry to improve access to health care coverage and services in the United States, Carrie, who was already balancing a busy and successful health care legal career with firm administrative responsibilities (heading up professional development and the firm’s pro bono program), gathered her network of contacts and founded the organization. It is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to industry-focused solutions to access across all segments of health care.
And next week, on May 20-21, her organization will be hosting its third annual Health Access Summit, in Washington, DC.
This year’s Summit brings together senior executives and health care industry stakeholders, many of whom are women, who are shaping best practices in health care access, to address a range of topics, including employer strategies to achieve health care access, the movement towards population health, innovations in medical service delivery, an update on the Affordable Care Act, strategies for optimizing health communication and engagement, and new concepts in extended and long term care.
Attendees will hear from top women health care executives such as Robin Henderson of St. Charles Health System, Pamela Shipley of Centene, Denise Prince of Geisinger Health System, and Ryan Shadrick Wilson from Partnership for a Healthier America, as part of the panel “’Health is Wealth’ – The Movement Toward Population Health.”
Great minds don’t necessarily think alike, but when you get a bunch of them in the same room, sometimes great things can happen. Stay tuned for some of the “take aways” from the Summit. They are bound to be informative and insightful.
For questions regarding the event, please email Amy Simmons at ASimmons@ebglaw.com.
In the 1970s, John Malloy coined the term “dress for success” in his advice book of the same name, targeted to women professionals. His message that looking professional is the means to advancement and success for women continues to resonate—and there is plenty of reason to believe that dressing well matters—so, too, skills, opportunity, confidence, and support.
On March 11, 2015, the Women’s Initiative of Epstein Becker Green hosted an after-work networking event to support the New York City Coalition for the Homeless’ First Step Job Training Program and its clothing “boutique,” which provides professional clothes and accessories for the program’s students, as they dress for interviews and embark on their professional careers.
First Step helps hundreds of women achieve a newfound sense of self-esteem and direction. First Step’s innovative 14-week curriculum includes more than 75 hours of computer instruction, along with literacy workshops, communication and interpersonal skills development, and other hands-on activities that give students a thorough and practical understanding of the job market and workplace. The program places students in internships with major corporations or nonprofit organizations and offers mentoring by experienced professional women. First Step also provides a lifetime of post-graduate services, including job placement assistance, ongoing mentoring from staff and volunteers, support groups, additional training seminars, and numerous networking opportunities with alumni and business professionals. The program has proven to be highly effective. Last year, of those enrolled, approximately two-thirds graduated, successfully completing both the classroom and internship portions of the program, of which 75 percent secured full-time employment.
Approximately 40 women attended the Women’s Initiative event which focused on giving back, stepping up, and making a difference and which furthers the Women’s Initiative’s mission of creating opportunities for professional women to develop rewarding professional relationships.
In the midst of the holiday buying season, let’s take a moment to reflect on the influence of advertising on our gift-buying choices and the potential impact that those choices have on our children. We are well versed in the power of advertising in enforcing stereotypes in our culture and on ourselves. Last month, NPR aired a segment that offered striking evidence of how much that might matter.
The NPR segment reported on how advertising in the early days of personal computers, which were marketed by companies such as Radio Shack and Commodore, effectively shut the door on girls entering computer science by targeting the new product as a toy for boys, much like erector sets. Pitching personal computers to boys gave them a significant head start in learning computing and coding. Girls, on the other hand, did not grow up coding because personal computers were not marketed to them. As a result, by the time that boys entered college, those considering a computer science major already had a significant base of knowledge. The boys’ baseline then came to be the standard expected by professors. Girls who had a similar interest in computer science entered college with a knowledge base far behind that of boys; as a result, most girls abandoned computer science for other degrees before really even getting started. From there, the male computer nerd/genius stereotype took off and took hold. This is despite the fact that women led the field until 1984.
Much of society continues to perpetuate these harmful sexist stereotypes. Just last year, Random House published Barbie, I Can Be a Computer Engineer, targeted to three- to seven-year-old girls. As reported by Taylor Lorenz in the Business Insider, Barbie “is portrayed as an inept programmer who inadvertently plagues her friend’s computer with a virus and can’t fix a bug without help from a man.” According to one Amazon review quoted in the article:
Barbie starts out at breakfast stating that she’s designing a game but when questioned by her sister Skipper, she admits, “I’m only creating the design idea, I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game.” Literally six sentences into the story, and already Barbie can NOT do it.
Although the book has been discontinued and now appears to be a collector’s item ($199.99 sold as a package with I Can Be an Actress), it is out there—along with the attitudes, both society’s and our own.
As reported earlier this year in an article by Elizabeth Weingarten, “How to Get Girls to Choose, and Stick with, STEM Careers: A Future Tense Event Recap,” published on Slate.com, Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College, offered this formula: “Show them that it is fun (and lucrative, and flexible), strip away the intimidation factor (by gently telling know-it-all, geeky boys in class to pipe down), and help them see that they’re smart enough to do it.”
I’ll go for that.