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Financial services firms offer women the best shot at heading a large in-house legal department, according to Corporate Counsel’s 2005 survey of Fortune 500 companies. Of the top 25 female general counsel in the survey, ranked by the size of their legal departments, 12 are at financial firms or at insurance companies offering such services. Information technology and health care were tied for a distant second, with two women in GC positions in each field. The overall picture is more complicated, with little improvement in the numbers. This year’s 16 new faces were nearly balanced by 14 departures, meaning that the tally of female GCs edged up � just barely � from 71 last year to 73 this year. As a result, just 14.6 percent of Fortune 500 companies have women heading up their legal staffs. The news isn’t all negative, though. Corporate Counsel found that some women were promoted off the chart. Vicki O’Meara rose from GC to executive vice president and chief of corporate operations for Miami-based Ryder System Inc.; Martha Wyrsch, formerly top legal officer at Duke Energy Corp., in Charlotte, N.C., took over as president and CEO of the firm’s Houston subsidiary; and Andrea Zopp traded a job as general counsel of Chicago-based Sears, Roebuck and Co. for the same post at the new parent company, Sears Holdings Corp., which has not yet received a Fortune ranking. Taking a longer view, Corporate Counsel finds more reasons for optimism: Just five years ago a Minority Corporate Counsel Association Fortune 500 survey identified only 43 women heading up major corporate legal staffs. Looking farther back, Helen Pudlin, general counsel at Pittsburgh-based The PNC Financial Services Group Inc., remembers that in 1989, when she left private practice to go in-house, she had heard of few female GCs. In 1993, after becoming top lawyer at her firm, Pudlin had still met only a handful of women with comparable jobs. But the number grew, and she predicts that it will continue to do so. “There are lots of women in the pipeline now,” Pudlin says, “in the law schools, in law firm partnerships, and in senior positions in legal departments.” Financial services firms offer women stability as well as opportunity. Pudlin and Louise Parent of the New York-based American Express Co. have both held their GC jobs since 1993 � longer than anyone else on this year’s list. Pudlin suggests that these firms have generally more stable upper management than companies in other sectors. Another reason for her own longevity? Pudlin says: “It’s a stimulating job. I am never, ever bored.” Sue Reisinger is a senior reporter atCorporate Counsel magazine, aTexas Lawyer affiliate. This article originally appeared in the July 2005 issue ofCorporate Counsel .
More Women Head Legal Departments Women head the legal departments at nine Fortune 500 companies in Texas, up from seven in 2004. The seven Texas women from 2004 remain in their jobs in 2005. But the newcomers in the group in Texas for 2004 are Joanne Bober, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary at J.C. Penney Co. Inc. in Plano, and Roberta Lang, vice president of legal affairs and general counsel of Whole Foods Market Inc. in Austin. Bober became GC at J.C. Penney this year, and Whole Foods wasn’t a Fortune 500 company in 2004. Although Corporate Counsel, a Texas Lawyer affiliate, reports that financial services firms offer women the best opportunity for GC jobs, that’s not the case in Texas. Three of the women GCs in Texas are at energy companies � Charlene Ripley of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. in The Woodlands, Kimberly Bowers of Valero Energy Corp. in San Antonio and Carol Graebner of Houston’s Dynegy Inc. Two others lead the legal departments at major airlines � Jennifer Vogel at Continental Airlines Inc. in Houston and Deborah Ackerman of Southwest Airlines Co. of Dallas. The others on the list are Kerry Galvan of Lyondell Chemical Co. of Houston, and Michelle Goolsby of Dean Foods Co. of Dallas, who has the longest current tenure on the job as a woman GC in Texas. Goolsby has been general counsel since 1998. [See "Women GCs at Fortune 500 Companies in Texas," this page.] Among the Texas companies, Bober heads the largest legal department; J.C. Penney has a 45-lawyer legal department. Bober was senior vice president and general counsel of the Chubb Corp. for five years prior to joining J.C. Penney in February 2005. Before Chubb, Bober had been a partner in Jones Day in Cleveland. Lang is on the other end of the spectrum since she is one of only three lawyers in the legal department at Whole Foods.

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