Getting to the Top: Jumping the Hurdles or Creating Them?

On February 24, the National Association of Women Lawyers (“NAWL”) published the results of its eighth annual survey regarding the retention and promotion of women into senior and equity positions within the law firms surveyed—200 of the top national firms. The survey results were disappointing in terms of the ascension of women into equity partnership ranks and compensation when compared to male counterparts and the ability of these women to “make rain”—i.e., to convert their contacts into clients. 

While the results of the NAWL survey raise unfortunate and unanswered questions regarding law firm career development for women, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the blockbuster book Lean In, provides her observations regarding the dearth of women “at the top”—in corporations, law firms, not for profits, and as global political leaders. “No judgments,” as Sandberg says, but beware of “the messages we tell ourselves!” Self-defeating messages become professional liabilities that can hinder our advancement. The message of Sandberg's video presentation “Why we have too few women leaders” addresses her insights, borne of her own successful career, concerning self-made, defeating obstacles to reaching the top. Enjoy the video's thoughtful content and share your thoughts with us.

Are You Leading From the Back Seat or Are You Driving the Car?

In case you missed it, an interview with Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and co-chief executive of Birchbox, a beauty products website, drives home some leadership tips especially noteworthy for professional women.

We have linked to the full article, but here are some takeaways:

  • A drive for success and ambition is learned at an early age, and a mother’s influence plays a meaningful role in that development process.
  • As Ms. Beauchamp points out, there are “drivers” and “riders” in life—learning to take ownership of feelings and moods impacts taking responsibility for your career.
  • The challenge of effective management is a lot like parenting! As Ms. Beauchamp puts it, "Trying to figure out the balance of caring about somebody and managing somebody."
  • Give credit where it is due, and think about the development not of your career but of your team.
  • Negativity has no place in the workplace.

Enjoy the article and let us know your perspectives on leadership. We would love to hear from you!

Celebrating 2013 Grace Institute Graduates and Women's History Month

Fran GreenMy colleague Fran Green was the keynote speaker at a ceremony held on March, 6, 2013, at Cooper Union in New York City to celebrate the 2013 graduates of Grace Institute.  Founded by W.R. Grace in 1897, Grace Institute provides tuition-free, practical job training for underserved New York area women.  Since its inception, Grace Institute has trained more than 100,000 women, including Fran, who is a graduate of the program. 

Fran, a Member of the Firm and one of the founders of the Women's Initiative of Epstein Becker Green, spoke from experience and the heart in her moving address.  She told the graduates, “Self-worth was the greatest gift Grace Institute gave to me—wrapped in my certificate of course completion.  That certificate—the same as you will receive tonight—and my self-worth were inextricably woven together like a tapestry.  Self-worth gave birth to self-confidence; self-confidence got me a job which gave birth to self-sufficiency.”  Fox News Television featured the graduation as well as Fran’s remarks on a March 7 broadcast.

The graduation, appropriately occurring in March—Women’s History Month—illustrates the continued relevance, benefit and importance of promoting gender equality, providing opportunities for women, celebrating the contributions of women in history and today, and responding to the challenges faced by women and girls.  Women’s History Month had its origins in 1981, when Congress proclaimed the week of March 8 as “Women’s History Week.” In 1987, Congress declared the entire month of March as “Women’s History Month.”  

As the National Women’s History Project, a great resource for information and materials about the role of women in U.S. history, has eloquently stated: “To ignore the vital role that women’s dreams and accomplishments play in our lives would be a great mistake.  We draw strength and inspiration from those who came before us—and those remarkable women working among us today.  They are part of our story, and a truly balanced and inclusive history recognizes how important women have always been in American society.”  

In this spirit, on March 21, 2013, the Women's Initiative of Epstein Becker Green will host a private exhibition of artwork by women artists, presented in association with Artists of the Americas (AOTA), to celebrate Women’s History Month. This engaging program will explore women's contributions to the world through an arts perspective.

 We encourage you to be part of the celebration and the conversation. Give some thought to issues that affect women, discuss them with others, and find ways to further the drive toward equality.  Together we can help make our country, our communities, our businesses, and our schools better for everyone.

Amy Ellis Nutt on Hurricane Sandy and Coping with Unexpected Loss

Maxine Neuhauserby Maxine Neuhauser

Hurricane Sandy has provided us with substantial food for thought since our October 17 program during which we explored what it means to “have it all.” In the aftermath of the storm, and seeing the devastation and the damage suffered by so many in the region, I am left thinking, “No power, no problem.”  All of us at Epstein Becker Green certainly hope that all our friends and colleagues have weathered Hurricane Sandy with only a minor disruption, but we know that there are many, including in our own Epstein Becker Green family, still struggling with the loss of property and power.

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Amy Ellis Nutt, who spoke at our Women’s Initiative event a year ago, wrote an evocative piece about the storm’s descent upon the Jersey Shore entitled “48 Hours that Forever Changed New Jersey,”  which appeared on the front page of the Sunday, Nov. 3, 2012, edition of the Star Ledger.  Those of us who attended Amy’s program were uniformly struck by her insightful and poignant voice—not to mention great journalism.  

Another inspirational article by Amy, published a few weeks before the storm, discusses coping with unexpected loss and finding a future in a traumatically changed world. The article, “Marooned in the Moment,” is a fascinating exploration of loss, resilience, self, family, hope, fear, talent, and devotion.

We found both articles illuminating, poignant, and worthy of sharing with you. We would be pleased to hear from you about them. 

EBG Attorneys, Carrie Corcoran and Meg Thering, Speak at the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York's 2012 Convention About Labor and Employment Law Issues Affecting Female Attorneys

Carrie Corcoran and I spoke at the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York’s 2012 convention on Saturday, June 2 at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York. Our presentation was entitled “Labor and Employment Law Issues Affecting Female Attorneys.” During our presentation, we presented statistics about the number of females in the legal profession and the number of females reaching the top echelons of the legal profession. This information inspired an interesting discussion with the audience members proffering their own ideas for why more females may not be attaining top career achievements in the law. Some attributed the numbers to outright sexism in the profession. Others pointed to family responsibilities such as women taking time off to have children or having greater domestic responsibilities than male counterparts with stay-at-home wives. Yet others attributed it to the fact that some women who have a financial cushion due to successful husbands decide to opt out of the workplace (whereas men who do this may be frowned upon by society). Still others believed it was due to practice areas that women pursued within the legal profession.

We then offered a primer on federal, state, and local laws that may affect female attorneys such as anti-discrimination statutes (including not just Title VII and the state and city Human Rights Laws, but also laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of physical appearance, lifestyle discrimination statutes, and marital/family status anti-discrimination statutes), the Family Medical Leave Act, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and the Dodd-Frank Act. We also presented about caregiver discrimination and lactation accommodation. During this discussion, the audience debated whether the law should mandate accommodations for women and whether society has an obligation to make it easier for women to balance careers and children. The audience also debated whether certain laws, such as statutes that provide employees with leave to attend school functions for their children, may be unfair to workers without children.

Following this, we discussed how having – and promoting – more female attorneys may make a firm more profitable, and we talked about ways firms might legally accomplish this. We ended our presentation with discussions about the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and workplace bullying.

The presentation was well received. The audience was very engaged, and the attendees posed a lot of interesting thoughts and questions.

Women in the Workplace - 2012

Margaret C. TheringWomen, particularly the so-called “war on women,” have been capturing headlines in 2012. In 2010 and 2011, a lot of headlines focused on the “mancession” and the fact that women were doing better in the workforce than men. Thus, in light of the new headlines about the “war on women” (the sensationalized name the media has given to what many view as a recent push to infringe on women’s rights, particularly reproductive rights), what is happening? Are women faring better or worse in the workplace? Recent data shows that it is a mixed bag. Some women, particularly highly educated women, are faring better; however, women who are not highly-educated are finding it harder to find permanent, high-paying jobs, and more women are opting to work in the home.

On May 21, 2012, in “The Truth About Men, Women and Work,” Rana Foroohar from Time Magazine reported that while women gained 73% of the new jobs added to the U.S. economy in April, most of those jobs were low-paying jobs in health, private education, and leisure/hospitality. Many of the jobs were temporary, and more women are gaining temporary jobs than men – 51% versus 27%. Additionally, the April results do not reveal the whole picture. Since June of 2009, women have filled only 16% of the new jobs, and more women are choosing to stay at home. Foroohar suggests that more women are choosing to stay at home because they cannot find jobs. Foroohar reports that while much news has been made about the “mancession,” little has been made about the fact that women held most of the public sector jobs cut (about 75% of the 601,000 jobs lost).

Well-educated women seem to be doing alright in the recession - women with college degrees are increasingly starting out at the same salaries or better salaries than men. Additionally, young, well-educated women without children are earning more than men in many wealthy, urban areas. Foorahar concludes: “the success of women at the top and the scramble for lower-paying jobs at the bottom reflect a larger and more worrisome trend, the bifurcation of the American workforce. It’s the core economic issue of our time, and it’s likely to be one that hits women hardest. The middle-income jobs that are returning are factory gigs going mainly to men. The public-sector positions that sustained many women and allowed them to balance work and family over the past four decades are going, going, gone. What’s left are the extremes: those with demanding, well-paid jobs who can afford to manage their lives, homes and children – and those who provide that help. In that sense, the shrinking middle may turn out to be not just a class issue but a gender one as well.”

Foorahar’s predictions and conclusions are supported by a recent Pew Research Center study by Eileen Patten and Kim Parker. The study found that more young women than young men say that having a high-paying career is important to them. Of people ages 18 to 34, 66% of women said that having a high-paying career is important to them versus 59% of men. This is a change since 1997 when only 56% of young women wanted a high paying career (versus 58% of young men). Interestingly, young women’s focus on their careers has not diminished the value they place on marriage. In fact, the percentage of women who value a successful marriage increased from 28% in 1997 to 37% in 2010/2011. This could be a Generation Y/Millennial Generation phenomenon as members of these generation tend to be simultaneously achievement-oriented and family-centric while having a sense of entitlement and confidence (i.e., thinking they can have it all). This phenomenon may just pertain to women of this generation though, as the percentage of young men valuing a successful marriage has decreased to 29% (from 35% in 1997). Additionally, this phenomenon may be belied by the fact that despite that fact that more women say they value high-paying careers, more women are opting to stay at home. In 1997, 53% of couples had dual wage-earners. In 2010 only 48% of married couples had dual breadwinners.

What does all of this mean for American society and work culture? Does the fact that more highly-educated women are finding success in the workplace mean that it is easier for women to find success in the workplace? If so, is this true just for women at the top, and why is that the case? Could it be because certain laws and policies that may help advance women in the workplace are more easily accessed by highly successful women? For example, more successful (and therefore more highly compensated) women may be more able to take the unpaid childcare leave offered by the Family Medical Leave Act. Additionally, it may be easier for these women to lactate in the workplace if they can simply close their office doors and continue to work while doing so. Alternatively, it could be that these women do not have as many children as other women do – or have more childcare options (e.g., spouse, daycare, nanny, etc.). If this trend continues, how will the lack of women in the “middle” in the workplace affect work culture and society?

A Conversation with Christine McMahon, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fedcap Rehabilitation Services, Inc.

Christine McMahon

Christine McMahon joined Fedcap in 2009 and has championed the organization’s strategic growth, significantly increasing the nonprofit’s size as well as its service delivery and reach among people in need throughout the Northeast.

Ms. McMahon has more than 25 years’ experience in social and mental-health services in New York and New England. She is nationally recognized for the breadth of her strategic vision and her expertise across a wide range of social programs, for the implementation of numerous social-service-delivery and community-based initiatives, and for influencing state and local healthcare and social policy. She previously served as Senior Vice President and COO of an Easter Seals region that encompassed New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts.

Fedcap is a nonprofit organization. What is its mission and what is your mission for Fedcap?

Fedcap’s mission is to create opportunities for people with barriers to move toward economic independence. We provide evaluation, education, vocational and soft-skills training, job placement and post-employment support to thousands of adults and young people in the Northeast each year. We place people in jobs across a wide variety of business sectors and employ 1,500 in our own $90M managed-services operations. We also know that, for many, a job on its own – even a sustainable job that pays a living wage – is not enough to overcome the many complex barriers to long-term economic independence for many of those we serve. For example, people with mental illness or substance-abuse problems, people who are poor and uneducated, even veterans coming back from Afghanistan may face even basic life challenges that, when left unsolved, undermine success. So, in addition to helping people into jobs, we strive to understand and address the services they need to maintain those jobs. Fedcap is all about relevant and sustainable impact.

Do you think that being a woman has impacted your success positively or negatively?

I’m grateful to all those brave people who fought for women’s rights, but we’re still a long way away from a gender neutral playing field. I like to understand when gender differences exist, figure out how to embrace or overcome those differences, and then leverage the situation to succeed.

How would you describe your management style?

I am collaborative but I'm also decisive and I don't beat around the bush. And I like consensus, although I do sometimes think it’s overrated. I’d prefer to have the right answer than to have everyone agree on the wrong one. Perhaps the best way to describe the style that I aspire to is that I try to lead people to think differently about the issues that confront us, to shift the conversation, to explore alternative pathways to achieve our goals. I am decisive but I believe that the best decisions are made when we truly understand the problem that we're trying to solve. A leader's job is to ask the questions that get us to that holistic understanding, and then to facilitate the thinking and discussion necessary to reach solutions that are grounded in and responsive to that problem. And then of course a leader needs to be able to mobilize people and to find resources to get the job done.

When you’re working- how do you stay connected to leaders and your local business community?

I like best to work in groups and to rally people around a problem. As a not-for-profit organization, we have an obligation to solve problems. I am fond of inviting representatives from our biggest competitors to an all-day planning session. We can compete and work together in the community without anyone having to compromise. In fact, I believe that this sort of approach benefits everyone much more so than when we remain in our individual silos. But the sort of collaboration and even partnership that I'm talking about takes work and time. Effective alliances require knowledge of the other, understanding of priorities, goals and challenges, and ultimately depend on trust and mutual respect.

What professional advice would you offer that has served you well?

Mistakes happen. Focus on the recovery and find strength in learning from your mistakes. Another piece of advice that I love to share came from a fortune cookie. Seriously. It is: Efficient people get the job done right. Effective people get the right job done.

Name one common mistake you see women make in their careers.

Too many women minimize their accomplishments and don’t take credit they deserve. Men are better able to be competitive and to talk about their accomplishments in proactive, definitive terms. Women are much more likely to talk as “we.”

As the CEO of a company, do you consider diversity when selecting outside advisors, such as legal counsel or financial professionals?

There is intrinsic value in diversity--bringing together professionals with different cultural experiences and perspectives can contribute to the dynamic exchange of ideas to promote innovation and growth. It is also critical to match the right person with the right skill set with the right job. Both are achievable in today's business environment.

Describe your views on philanthropy.

Philanthropy is vital to solving communities’ problems and can be more effective than a government framework. When people make personal contributions to the community, they get more directly engaged in the outcome than when they’re just paying taxes. At the same time, we shouldn’t have to constantly make the moral case for sustainable government funding for things like education.

What can companies and professional women do to give back to their communities?

We put too much pressure on companies to fix problems in this country. We want businesses to hire veterans yet we don’t help them learn how to effectively translate military mindsets and skills to the civilian workplace. We tell businesses they must hire the previously incarcerated but we hold those businesses responsible should anything go wrong with an employee. That said, companies should become actively engaged--even insert themselves--into education to introduce young people (especially young women) to career possibilities. There are too many kids in economically deprived areas who can’t even name five careers, let alone aspire to them.

Increased Care for Caregivers by Government Enforcement Agency

By: Lauri F. Rasnick and Meg Thering

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has once again turned its focus to caregiver discrimination. While “caregivers” are not specifically included as a “protected category” under any federal law, the EEOC has discussed various federal laws that may provide protections to caregivers. Read more about the EEOC’s focus on caregiver discrimination here

"Strong, Smart, Bold" and Inspiring Women

Frances GreenIn this Women's Month in particular, EBG's Women's Initiative would like to send congratulations and kudos to Julie Greiner of Macy's and Girls Inc. NYC!  Julie, Executive Officer and Chief Merchandise Planner at Macy's, Inc. is being honored, along with Mary Bryon of Goldman Sachs and Regina Lee of ADP, for her work and support of Girls Inc.  A luncheon will be held today in NYC for these honorees!  Congratulations to Girls Inc. NYC for more than 28 years of championing and inspiring girls and young women "to be strong, smart and bold"!!

A Conversation with Betty Francisco, EVP and General Counsel of Millennium Partners Sports Club Management

Millennium Partners Sports Club Management operates The Sports Club/LA and Reebok Sports Club/NY, premier fitness and sports clubs across the country, with locations in Boston; Washington, DC; Miami; New York; and San Francisco

What sparked your interest in law?

I initially became interested in immigration law in college while doing my thesis on immigration policy. After graduating from college, I wanted to work in the legal field for a few years before attending law school in order to understand what exactly lawyers do. So, I worked as a paralegal at the District Attorney's office in New York for three years. I admired what the Assistant District Attorneys did in the criminal law environment and decided to pursue law school at Northeastern University for a joint JD/MBA.

What made you decide to get a joint JD/MBA?

A professor of mine in college was adamant that, in order for women or Hispanics to advance faster, it would be better for them to go into business, rather than law. That stuck with me as I made the ambitious decision to get a dual degree; in hindsight, it was one of the best decisions that I made in my career.

Continue Reading...

Only Four Women Featured in Fortune's "2011 Businessperson of the Year" List of 50

Wendy MarcariFortune Magazine came out with its issue naming the "2011 Businessperson of the Year," as well as 49 runners-up. As one would expect, the 50 individuals featured by Fortune are extraordinary leaders who have attained exceptional results for their respective businesses. What’s remarkable about this list, however, is that only four of the 50 businesspeople are women.

Women comprise almost half of the workforce, yet they account for only 6% of corporate CEOs and top executive positions, as noted in the January 2011 report by David A. Matsa and Amalia Miller entitled “Chipping Away at the Glass Ceiling: Gender Spillovers in Corporate Leadership.” At law firms, barely 15% of equity partners are women – a level that has not improved over many years, according to an October 2011 survey by The National Association of Women Lawyers and The NAWL Foundation. Although women have made much progress toward achieving equality in the workplace, we still have a long way to go. We would be wise to continue to focus our energy on identifying and addressing gender disparities at the highest levels of corporate America.

Congratulations to Irene B. Rosenfeld, Christine M. Day, Carol Meyrowitz, and Angela Ahrendts on their selection to Fortune’s list – and on the achievements for which they were selected.

The Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation

To the readers of our blog who may be in health care and its related fields and industry, we wanted to introduce you all to the Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation ("WBL"). This nonprofit's outreach and misson is to help senior executive women in the health care industry improve their businesses and continue to grow professionally. Our law partner Lynn Shapiro Synder is the founder of the WBL. Check out the website, and to those of us in the business of health care, the WBL might be an organization for you!

A "Night Of Giving" to Benefit the Young Women's Leadership Network

Wanted to give a “shout out” to the wonderful work of the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL). On July 20, 2011, the EpsteinBeckerGreen Women’s Initiative was privileged to sponsor a “Night of Giving” in conjunction with NAWL's Annual Meeting. For those professional women who read this blog and who are lawyers, NAWL is an organization that is about us and for us and – another good and professional way to network with successful women! The “Night of Giving” is a way that women attorneys, all of whom are members of NAWL, assist women and girls in various projects and organizations around the country that espouse the cause and champion the efforts of women in various academic and professional disciplines.

This most recent NAWL event was dedicated to benefitting the work of the Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN), a nonprofit organization that supports programs focused on helping urban youth break the cycle of poverty through college readiness and college access. Attendees at the event, who had been asked to bring various school supplies – from pens and pencils to thumb drives and phone cards – chatted, laughed, and listened to speakers as they wrapped journals to which they added their personal words of encouragement for the recipients. Speaking at the event, EBG partner Amy J. Traub, expressed the firm’s appreciation for the strong partnership that exists between NAWL and the EpsteinBeckerGreen Women’s Initiative:

It is through the efforts of the Women’s Initiative that EpsteinBeckerGreen was first introduced to NAWL. We stand behind NAWL and have formed our own internal EBG-NAWL Committee to help promote and foster the professional empowerment of women in the law and in the boardroom. We continue to look for ways to support NAWL’s efforts, and tonight is just one way that we can do that.

While some of us demonstrated better-honed wrapping skills than others, there was certainly no disparity when it came to generosity of spirit – just a group of women all giving of their time and energy to help smooth the path for the next generation of professional women – and having a really good time in the process!

Does the Inclusion of Women in Team Decision Making Actually Increase a Group's Intelligence?

Some new and interesting research by Anita Woolley ( and Thomas Malone ( has been cited in June's Harvard Business Review. Woolley is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory at Carnegie Mellon University, and Malone is the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the founding Director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.

Their research of team behavior and problem solving makes an interesting business case for gender diversity, concluding that "there's little correlation between a group's collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members. But if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises." Thus, where strategic business decisions are being made at a group or team level, the inclusion of women spikes the quotient of intelligence, making a positive difference in decision-making outcomes. As Malone states, "The standard argument is that diversity is good and you should have both men and women in a group. But so far, the data show, the more women, the better." Indeed, research shows teams with more women tended to fall above the average of the collective intelligence scores of the teams studied by Malone and Woolley; the teams populated by men were below average in the same regard.

The moral: It's a no-brainer! If you want smarter boards of directors, corporate committees, or strategic business teams, Woolley and Malone's research supports increasing the participation of women.

15 Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs

Here is an interesting article and assessment of at least 15 women entrepreneurs: "15 Female Entrepreneurs Who Are Incredibly Inspiring." Indeed, the article has an eclectic grouping of women. However, we are sure our readers might know at least 15 who have not made this list!

New Study Reveals that Women Board Members Create Opportunities for Women Executives

New findings by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University underscore the benefits of adding more women to corporate boards. Kellogg’s study, entitled “Chipping Away at the Glass Ceiling: Gender Spillovers in Corporate Leadership,” reveals that “a higher representation of women on a company’s board of directors directly increases the female share of and access to higher positions within the company.”

The news that putting more women on a company’s board leads to more women in top management positions at that company is very encouraging. As David Matsa, assistant professor of finance at Kellogg aptly points out, this is a situation of “‘women helping women’ at the highest level of company leadership.” However, on the flip side, the study found that increasing the number of female top-level managers at a company won’t result in more women occupying board seats.

The study’s findings were based on data from corporate boards and top executives at publicly traded companies during the years 1997-2009. To read a summary of the findings, go to Kellogg’s website.

At your company, have you seen any relationship between the gender makeup of its board and the ability of women to attain executive and managerial roles?

"Goddess Shift" Wins Book Award

I'm thrilled to report that Goddess Shift: Women Leading for a Change just won the USA Book News “Best Books 2010” award in the Women’s Issues category, and was a finalist in the Anthologies Nonfiction category. 

Goddess Shift is an anthology of personal stories written by 43 women in leadership positions about how they have empowered themselves to create change in all walks of life. I am honored to be among the book's contributors, which include Oprah Winfrey, Suze Orman, Venus & Serena Williams, Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Barbara Walters, Olympia Dukakis, and Maya Angelou. 

All royalties from this book are going to three, exceptional non-profit organizations dedicated to improving the lives of girls and women: Capacitar, the Global Fund for Women, and Tostan

Go here to learn more about Goddess Shift. Additionally, you can read my entire chapter here. I hope the book will inspire you.

New Workshops Help Women Strengthen Their Leadership Skills

If you are in the New York City area and would like to strengthen your leadership skills and network with other women professionals, the Athena Leadership Lab at Barnard College (Columbia University's Liberal Arts College for Women), in Manhattan is offering hands-on courses designed to "teach women the practical elements of leadership – from the art of negotiation to effective public speaking, from financial fluency to management savvy." You don't need to be a current or past student of Barnard College to enroll.

The Athena Leadership Lab's "Knowledge and Know-How for Women" Fall 2010 Course Catalogue is available online. In it, you will find over 70 workshops divided into the following categories: "Communications," "Nonprofit Management," "Financial Fluency," "Negotiation," "Courage and Resilience," and "Entrepreneurial Skills." For more details, click here.

What It Takes to Be a Winner

Please CLICK HERE to read about PowerPlay NYC's exciting, upcoming event--"What It Takes to Be a Winner"--which will be held on July 6, 2010, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at The Yale Club (50 Vanderbilt Avenue in Manhattan).  The event will feature a conversation with Venus Williams, who is celebrating the publication of her new book entitled Come to Win: How Sports Can Help You Ace Your Goals and Top Your Profession, and lunch and leadership conversations with PowerPlay's Summer Leadership Academy participants.

PowerPlay NYC is a nonprofit organization that is committed to educating and empowering girls through sports, teaching life skills and building self-confidence and self-esteem for life.

New Book Inspires Women Leaders and Helps Support Women's Organizations

I am excited to bring to your attention an inspirational new book about women leaders, the proceeds of which will support several women's organizations globally. The book, Goddess Shift: Women Leading for a Change, is an anthology of personal stories written by 43 women in leadership positions about how they have empowered themselves to create change in all walks of life.

I am honored to be one of the contributors to the book. Other contributors include women leaders in many fields, including entertainment (Oprah Winfrey), finance (Suze Orman), government (Sonia Gandhi), sports (Venus & Serena Williams), social change and philanthropy (Angelina Jolie), journalism (Barbara Walters), and literature (Sue Monk Kidd). In my chapter, I discuss the driving forces that have shaped my professional journey from corporate executive to the convent of the Maryknoll Sisters to living and working in Japan to law school and, finally, to a career as a trial lawyer and co-founder of a women’s initiative.

I felt compelled to contribute my personal story because all royalties from this book will be used to support three, exceptional non-profit organizations dedicated to improving the lives of girls and women: Capacitar, the Global Fund for Women and Tostan.

Last week, the Fox News TV show “FOX & Friends” asked Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis (another Goddess Shift contributor) and me to discuss, among other things, what the book's title means. I told the interviewers that the word "Goddess" in the title refers to all women and that, to me, the phrase "Goddess Shift" means that women have moved from "setting the table" to "negotiating at the table." However, women still need to make the existential leap from participating in the corporate world as leaders to running our country. (Our FOX & Friends interviews (both the on-air and after-the-show interviews) are posted below.)

You can find more information about Goddess Shift, including sample chapters, here. I hope the book inspires more women to become leaders!

Upcoming Event Helps Women Prepare for Board Service

I would like to bring to your attention an important executive leadership event called “Women in the Boardroom” (formerly known as "Women on Boards") that will take place in many cities around the country. Designed to assist in the preparation of board service, the event will feature panelists of executives with for-profit board experience who will share their knowledge and necessary tools for serving as a director.

The event will begin with a two-hour panel presentation and Q&A and will include topics such as (i) being a director, (ii) the differences of a non-profit, private and public board, (iii) the board selection process, (iv) being an effective board member, and (v) positioning yourself for board service/taking the next step.

My EpsteinBeckerGreen colleague Lynn Shapiro Snyder, who also is the president and an advisory board member of the Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation, will serve as one of the panelists in the Women in the Boardroom event to be held on Tuesday, April 20, 2010, in Washington, D.C. Please visit the Women in the Boardroom Web site for registration information.

If you are a president, director or professional in a leadership role – male or female – I encourage you to attend a Women in the Boardroom event. This is an excellent opportunity to learn from the panelists' experiences and network with other executives and board members.

The Changing Numbers of Women on Wall Street, in the Workforce, and in Boardrooms

The New York Times recently published a few intriguing articles about women that I wanted to share with you.

Women are working in the financial industry in fewer numbers these days, despite more than 20 years of increased hiring and promoting, according to the article “Where Are the Women on Wall Street?” What is responsible for this decline? As The Times notes, fewer female graduates are seeking careers in the financial industry and women are abandoning the industry faster than men. And when women are laid off from a financial job, it’s harder for them to return to the industry because they face an environment that’s more hostile to women than men. While this is disappointing news, The Times adds, on a positive note, that women continue to maintain "a strong presence in some areas in finance, including wealth management."

Although there are fewer women on Wall Street, they have gained ground against men in the workforce overall. As the article “Women Now a Majority in American Workplaces” reports, women now outnumber men on the nation’s payrolls. Becoming the majority of the workforce is a milestone for women. But it’s hard to ignore that this exciting achievement is due to the recession hitting men harder than women. The Times points out that men tend to work in economically vulnerable industries – manufacturing and construction – while women tend to work in more stable industries – government, health, and education.

Finally, the article “Getting Women Into Boardrooms, By Law” reports that Norway, Spain and the Netherlands have passed laws that will place quotas on corporations that mandate the number of women they must have in top-level positions, with a 2015 deadline for compliance. The Times notes that other European countries are considering similar legislation.

The issue of imposing quotas is controversial. On the one hand, as a general proposition, some consider the imposition of quotas to ensure diversity is viewed as laudable and to others it is viewed as undermining what women have accomplished in terms of gender (particularly, women’s) equality over the past three decades. Some observers cite quotas as tantamount to so-called "reverse discrimination." On the other hand, quotas can remediate “systemic discrimination.” In the US, quotas, as a general matter, must be judicially sanctioned, whereas "goals or targets" are invariably linked to a good faith effort that stops short of discriminating against others. Thus, while quotas are implemented under limited and particular circumstances, corporations do set targets and goals to ensure diversity in their workplaces.

Which of the three articles above interests you the most and why?

Two Surveys Look at the Number of Women Partners at Law Firms

As 2009 draws to a close, I’ve noticed a proliferation of annual surveys. Two, in particular – one by The National Law Journal (NLJ) and the other by Law360 – captured my attention because they’re focused on the number of women partners at law firms. The survey results were a mixed bag. While the number of women partners rose slightly in 2009, only 18.47 percent of all partners are women, according to the NLJ. In the article "Women Still Number Too Few in Partner Ranks," Law360 expressed concern that while women make up approximately half of law school graduating classes, many women are “leaking out” of the pipeline, whether due to family reasons or unfair stereotypes. However, Law360 also pointed out that some corporate clients are applying pressure on law firms to become more diverse, which will benefit women attorneys. 

I am proud to be a member (partner) of a law firm that has a long history of hiring, retaining and promoting to firm governance talented women attorneys, when other firms might have turned them away primarily because of their gender. I am not at all surprised that my firm, EpsteinBeckerGreen, ranked among the Top 20 law firms for the high representation of women among its partners in the NLJ and Law360 surveys or that, earlier this year, The American Lawyer conducted its first "Women in Law Firms" study and ranked my firm 8th in the nation among all of the 200 largest firms for its percentage of women attorneys and among the top 10 firms with the highest percentage of women partners.

While I am pleased and honored with these rankings, I am confident that my firm will continue to attract and promote qualified women. This difficult economic environment provides opportunities, as well as challenges. There are qualified women attorneys with varied experience and skill sets that have been outsized from firms and/or corporate legal positions and this is a great time to identify great talent!!

How does your firm rank in the NLJ and Law360 surveys? Is your firm taking any special steps to beef up its number of women partners and include them in decision-making roles within firm governance?

Discussing What Women Lawyers Want

Recently, the Ark Group’s WOMENLEGAL 2009 forum brought together gender-diversity thought-leaders in New York for an important conference on women in the legal profession. The forum focused on the key career issues facing women lawyers today, and practical solutions for both women lawyers and law firms regarding retaining and advancing women in the legal profession.

Carol Frohlinger’s excellent article, “What Women Want,” thoroughly covers the forum in the June-August issue of WOMENLEGAL Magazine.

Among the many specific topics discussed at the forum were: leadership; management structure and practices; measurement and tracking of progress toward career goals; communication and training; and reward and recognition. Rain-making generally was among the subjects emphasized by speakers as “career critical.”

My colleague, Maxine Hicks, the Managing Shareholder of EpsteinBeckerGreen’s Atlanta office, stressed the importance for women to understand that business development is the currency of law firms. “Billable hours determine your current income but how you use non-billable hours determines your future income,” she said, as part of a panel titled “Current and future outlook on impediments to women’s success: effecting change and taking action.”

Please read more about this invaluable forum in Carol’s article. Which pieces of advice offered by the panelists do you find to be particularly helpful?

Helping Female Leaders Succeed

I recently read an enlightening study by Development Dimensions International (DDI) -- “Holding Women Back: Troubling Discoveries and Best Practices for Helping Female Leaders Succeed” -- which reveals that, worldwide, women are simply not getting the same career opportunities as men.  The study is based on responses from 12,800 leaders in 76 countries and approximately 1,500 organizations. However, the study also offers advice on how to overcome such challenges.

We learn that, in addition to earning lower salaries than men, women are often overlooked when employers single out “high potentials” -- employees who have strong leadership potential. High-potential employees are placed in accelerated development programs to foster their leadership skills. The DDI study reveals that the gap between men and women in high-potential programs widens as management levels increase: “there were 28 percent more men than women in high-potential programs at the first level of management and 50 percent more men than women in such programs at the executive level.” As a result, fewer women than men reach senior leadership positions.

The study provides seven tips for organizations and five tips for women to help female leaders succeed. For instance, the study recommends that organizations implement a formal succession plan to ensure that objective standards are followed when choosing replacements for key leadership roles. When an organization in the U.S. health care industry, for example, had a formal succession plan in place, “nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the executives were women.” However, without a succession plan, only “one-third (36 percent)" of the executives were women.

The study also urges organizations to, among other things, set up objective standards to evaluate job performance; monitor salary programs to eliminate any pay disparities; give women access to leadership training and development experiences; and provide mentors who can encourage women "to be more proactive about seeking new positions" and less critical of their qualifications. (Interestingly, the study noted that, at Hewlett-Packard, women applied for job openings only when they thought they would meet 100% of the job's listed criteria, while men applied if they felt they met just 60% of that criteria.)

I encourage you to read “Holding Women Back: Troubling Discoveries and Best Practices for Helping Female Leaders Succeed” and then let us know your thoughts about it. Has your firm or company provided you with leadership training and opportunities? 

More Women Serve on Corporate Boards

The Spencer Stuart Board Index 2008 recently caught my attention and I would like to share a few of its findings. The index examines the state of corporate boards and governance among S&P 500 companies, and looks to see how boards have changed during the past decade. Although not focused solely on women, the index outlines changes in the corporate governance landscape that could mean major opportunities for first-time women directors, and for women who want to serve on corporate boards but who are not an active CEO.

The index's statistics indicate that more and more women are serving on S&P 500 boards:

  • Eighteen percent of new directors are women (while that percentage is slightly lower than in recent years, it's higher in the longer term).
  • Almost 89% of S&P 500 boards include women (up from 85% in 2003).
  • Fifty-six percent of S&P 500 boards include two or more women directors, while 16% include three or more women directors (up from 41% and 11%, respectively, in 2003).
  • Women make up 15.7% of independent directors (that's an increase from 13.1% in 2003).
    I'm pleased to see those findings and hope that the percentages continue to rise.

I recommend that you read the Spencer Stuart Board Index 2008 and tell me your thoughts. Has your company made an effort to increase the number of women directors? At my firm, two women attorneys serve on the board of directors, and we're trying to add more.

Good News, Bad News About Leadership Opportunities for Women

The Wall Street Journal recently featured an interesting article entitled "Women Leaders by the Numbers," which highlights the progress that women have made in business and politics, as well as the barriers to advancement they continue to face. 

The good news is that women leaders are making a positive impact. The article points out that the next session of Congress will include more women Senators and Representatives than ever before. Also, research reveals that the public seems increasingly comfortable with the idea of a woman leader in 19 key jobs. Women-owned businesses are growing faster than other U.S. firms, and Fortune 500 companies with the most women leaders experience a financial advantage--that is, "a 35% higher return on equity and a 34% higher total return to shareholders than those with the least number of women." 

The bad news is that only 20 percent of the top leadership roles are held by women. It's rare to find a woman CEO at a Fortune 500 company. Studies show that the public still perceives men to be better leaders at jobs requiring assertiveness and forcefulness. Because women are not properly represented in most traditionally male-dominated industries, that perception is unlikely to change anytime soon.

The article ends on a high note, by indicating that our struggling economy may give women more chances to lead. Because women are "good consensus leaders" and "good team leaders," they may be better suited than men to help their companies stay afloat during the maelstrom created by the recession. 

I highly recommend that you read "Women Leaders by the Numbers" and tell us your thoughts. Are more women obtaining leadership roles at your company?

At my law firm, EpsteinBeckerGreen, there has been a concerted effort to create more women leaders. Our women's initiative provides training and opportunities to enhance business development and leadership skills. I'm pleased to report that two of the five core practice steering committees at my firm are now led by women.

Hillary and Sarah Help Change the Face of Corporate America

Our good friend and colleague, Lynn Shapiro Snyder, recently wrote an intriguing op-ed article for Pink magazine online entitled "Hillary, Sarah and Wall Street." In her article, she notes that two high-profile politicians -- Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin -- have changed the image of leadership in a way that can benefit women in corporate America. Lynn raises a good point by noting that if a man is ready to select a female candidate as the president or vice president of the U.S., he also should be ready to select a female candidate to help run his company, as either a board member or CEO.

Lynn authored the article in her capacity as the founder and president of the Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation. This is a great foundation which helps senior executive women in the health care industry improve their businesses and grow professionally.

We highly recommend that you read Lynn's article, which is available by clicking here.

Please give us your thoughts on whether the women of the 2008 elections will make a positive difference in corporate America. Will it be reflected in increased participation in leadership positions?