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As part of its ongoing Roundtable series, The Recorder recently invited a group of prominent San Francisco Bay Area practitioners and a distinguished law professor to discuss issues confronting women in the legal profession. Here are some of the highlights of the discussion; others appeared in the first part of Reflections on a Glass Ceiling. Angela Bradstreet: I’d like to get back to a point that Marcia was making; that we as women have to deal with cultural stereotypes that have been ingrained in us for many years. Deborah Tannen has written extensively on this issue, talking about how women have been brought up, traditionally, to want to create a rapport with other people, as opposed to being competitive. Now, that’s a sort of crude stereotype but I do think sometimes we create our own glass ceilings. I’ll give you a good example. Everyone knows that in order to be powerful in a law firm these days it’s all about generating business. Well, I go through my own glass ceiling every day. Even after 20 years of practice, it is incredibly hard for me to pick up the phone — and notwithstanding a seven-figure book of business — and ask someone like Marcia, “I’m really good, could you give me some business? What would it take for me to get on your outside counsel list?” I’ve also had this from women who have come to me, associates at my law firm, and they’ll say, “I’ve got this friend who’s now the general counsel at so-and-so, but I don’t want to abuse the friendship. I don’t want to take advantage.” When do you hear men say, “I don’t want to take advantage of the friendship?” I mean, it’s expected for goodness sakes. Deborah Rhode: I don’t think it’s an either/or issue; do we want to change the culture or change the women so they can adapt to the culture? The truth of it is in order to get to a position to where you can change the culture, you have to succeed to a certain extent within that culture. That requires you to take on at least some of the characteristics that are valued by the organization. So I think we all negotiate that tension of trying to figure out when the issue is important enough to speak up and incur the risk of having someone say, “There she goes again, on the women’s issue.” Most of the studies on leadership suggest that women who have managed to rise to the top have figured out a way to exercise leadership skills in a manner that makes those around them “not uncomfortable.” I use the double negative there because that, in fact, is how successful women leaders phrase it. Bradstreet: I totally agree with Deborah. You have to pick your battles. Some things you can let go. On other things you can say, “This is important, we have to do this.” And be unemotional about it. It’s no good me bursting into tears. Just be very matter-of-fact and convince people that it is a business decision, that we need to do this for business reasons. Mary Cranston: I would say, just to try to hone it down, that some of the things I started doing as a younger lawyer have also been important in some of the leadership roles I’ve had at Pillsbury. One was getting very clear on what is important to me and where I want to go. That can be kind of a complicated question for many of us. We’ve been conditioned to be certain types of people. The same kind of intense honesty with yourself can help you get clear about what you want to do. Sometimes it’s a specific type of job. Sometimes it’s just more of a quality in your life. But I’ve always tried — I still do to this day — to get one or two or three goals that I’m working on. I get clear about them, and then I try to really prioritize those goals and take small steps every day. Some of these goals are a stretch, so it’s not obvious that I’m going to get there. Although I have to say I’ve always made every one if I’ve done this long enough, taking little action steps toward the goal. You have to confront the fears that come up about whether you’re going to be able to do it. Again, I just pat ‘em on the head and keep going. That’s something I’ve gotten better at over the years just because I’ve done it so much longer now. Marcia Sterling: In terms of this concept of building your career and working your way up to leadership, I’m a great believer in the notion that our lives have phases and cycles. I also believe that you do well at things you’re passionate about. When I started my law career and during the first five or so years of my career, I was a single parent and my kids were still young. The truth is, I was a dutiful lawyer but my passion was with my kids. I thought they were the most interesting thing that had ever happened in my life. I had a job, and I liked having a job. It was in the early days of Silicon Valley. I landed in this law firm [Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati] that just took off. I had the office next to Larry Sonsini, who was bringing in company after company. And he would just hand them to me, and off I would trot to a board meeting with no clue whatsoever about what was going on. But my passion was my kids. I remember times when I’d be stuck at the printer, during a down time with some of these CEOs when we could actually chat about something. I wanted to talk about my kids. And I noticed that my male colleagues were talking about what had been on the front page of the business section or about the latest deal in the Wall Street Journal. I never had time to read the Wall Street Journal. Eventually I disciplined myself to create a better presence by learning a little bit about these deals. Bradstreet: We can talk all day about what we as women need to do and how we can talk to women’s groups and how we can get mentors and all of this. But how do we overcome the fact that there’s still this gender stereotyping that exists in our profession? We’ve got 50 percent women graduating from law schools and we think it’s a big deal for one woman to be on a management committee. It’s just amazing how many firms don’t have a single woman on a management committee. They don’t have a single woman on a compensation committee. Those are the powerful committees. Often there are umpteen women on personnel committees. That’s not where the power is. Lydia Beebe: I think it’s important for all of us in leadership roles to focus on what we can do to help make sure that the people a decade behind us really have an avenue and a desire to continue to fill those leadership roles. Because one of the big problems, I think, in doing that is there are many options for women. Women have options in society to not work, or not work full time, or work on a contract basis or whatever. If you don’t see where you want to go and you don’t see how you’re going to get there or you don’t feel a support network, then there are all of these choices. I think Catalyst talks a lot about the leaks in the pipeline. Women get into the pipeline after coming out of law school in record numbers. They start out in firms or large corporations. But it’s hard to sustain that in the numbers that we need to really make an impact and have equitable representation at all levels. So many women choose other routes because the traditional route is not satisfying to them. Rhode: I think it’s also important to note when we talk about the leaks in the pipeline that however bad they are for women in general, there’s a hemorrhaging for women of color. One of the astounding figures that’s come out of the NALP statistics is that the attrition rate for women of color in law firms after eight years is 100 percent. Virtually no one stays. We need to pay attention not just to a world of pinks and blues but also to a world in which there is no generic “woman” and that women’s experiences vary a lot in terms of other characteristics and across different practice contexts. Cranston: One thing I still run into are the many managing partners of law firms who think part time is uneconomic. I just kind of roll my eyes. I certainly try to get them more educated. The truth is that when doing an analysis of part time, most firms only look at the short-term incremental cost. They don’t look at the full cost of what losing talented women, midstream in their careers, amounts to in terms of replacement, training costs and everything else. I think that part time is the only way that you can give women a life of quality in the child rearing years. I didn’t choose to work part time, and even if I had a choice now I wouldn’t. I am a very high-energy person, and not everybody is wired the same way. But it’s totally clear to me that if you want to have women, very qualified talented women with you for life, you’ve got to have some kind of balance for those years. There are other reasons for going part time, too. There are men who want to go part time as well. Law firms that really get this, I think, are going to have more longevity and more loyalty for career paths. As I watch law firms still arguing about whether it makes economic sense, I kind of just chortle because I think we’re going to clean up. Rhode: The research is quite clear that, over the long term, providing flexibility in workplace structures is a cost-effective strategy. They’ve priced it out and done studies at major corporations to find out exactly what the return is on these policies. Family-friendly policies turn out to be one of the most effective strategies for reducing recruitment and attrition costs, stress-related dysfunctions and all the morale problems that go with them. Sterling: This concept of people working the hours they do in today’s economy is a terrible, terrible price to pay for our balance as human beings. Our communities are suffering, our families are suffering, and our own physical and mental health is suffering. Particularly in a wired world, where you can be on a beach, for that matter, and handle hugely important things by phone or e-mail and the like, it is possible to have lawyers working part time who are still absolutely committed to your problem, absolutely passionate about doing it, and to whom you can absolutely look to know they’re going to take care of it whether they’re working three days a week or whatever. Audience member: In some firms the problem is that some women in positions of power aren’t helping other women to come along. That can be a real concern among young women associates. Cranston: That’s something that needs to be worked on. It’s the law of small numbers; there are more mentees than mentors. Even good-hearted women who want to do a lot of mentoring end up with full plates with that, and in many firms there are just not enough to go around if you want to have same-sex mentoring relationships. I’ve also observed in the profession that it’s just like life. There are people who are very concerned about this issue and want to give some of their time, and there are others who don’t. But because of the small numbers it’s almost looked on as though a woman is very selfish if she doesn’t want to become a big part of the mentoring relationships in the firm, so it’s a little bit of a double line. What do we do with it? I think that there are a number of things to do. One is to help women become more creative mentees so that they can find mentoring around them, and not necessarily from women; it can be from men as well. But it’s important for them to get very clear on what they want to do so that they can shape the mentoring relationships appropriately and get the right help for the right aspects of their career development. I also think that law firms really need to pay more attention to this. One of our strategic goals at Pillsbury is to be recognized as the best place to work. I think we’ve got a long way to go, and I think we’re a pretty good place. There’s a huge gap between what would really be state of the world in this and where most law firms are. There’s a lot of room for improvement. Rhode: Certainly a lot of younger women feel that they aren’t adequately supported by women at the top. Part of the problem is that the women at the top are juggling their own sets of needs, and they’re too small in numbers to provide adequate support for all the needy mouths to feed. Part of the problem is also that women who have tended to get to the top have often made some choices about what they’re willing to sacrifice that their younger counterparts don’t seem to want to make. There’s this lingering resentment there, an “I made it without special help, why can’t you?” kind of mentality and the notion that women should kind of pull their socks up and get on with it. By contrast, many younger women don’t want to have to make those choices and they don’t see why their workplaces can’t adapt to make alternatives possible. They don’t see why they can’t enlist senior women in the firm in that struggle. Bradstreet: I get angry at the whole thought of women not helping other women. We’re fighting enough battles, and it’s a very important issue and I think it’s real. I agree with Mary that it needs to be discussed. The only thing I would add is, and I hate to say this but I really believe it, often the women who don’t put themselves out to help others are the more insecure women who feel threatened. I don’t know quite how we address it. I think it’s a real sad commentary and it goes to the very issue that we’re here. We’re here because there’s still a glass ceiling. If those women did not perceive that there’s a glass ceiling, then they wouldn’t feel threatened, so it’s sort of a vicious cycle. Sterling: Although, Angela, I would say that I’ve had to terminate women who report in to me. Before this roundtable I interviewed a couple of the women attorneys in my organization about the glass ceiling because it’s just something I normally never talk to them about. I was surprised at some of their issues. I would say that whatever your responsibility is in a law firm or a business or in academia, wherever you are, there are going to be men and women who are part of your organization and some are going to be more able and more competent than others. It is a tough position for a woman. Mary, I’m sure you must encounter this all the time. There have been young women who’ve reported in to me and who felt I haven’t supported them. Some of them weren’t able to step up to the job, and maybe that’s disloyalty on some level. For me, that is a very hard thing. Bradstreet: Yeah, you can’t support women just because they’re women. I think we’re talking about being role models for younger women coming forward, younger people who we see as potential successors to us.

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