Amalie Barrocas, Counsel, Erika Estrada Boden, Executive Director, Ana Salas Siegel, SVP & Deputy General Counsel, Janet Diaz-Pujol, Executive Director, and Melany Navarro, Senior Counsel, Business and Legal Affairs, Fox International Latin America. (J. Albert Diaz)
Ana Salas Siegel didn’t set out to have an all-female general counsel’s office at Fox Latin America in Coral Gables.
But if she had a choice between two equally qualified lawyers to hire, one male and one female, she would choose the female.
Siegel, senior vice president and general counsel of Fox Latin America, oversees four attorneys in the Miami suburb—all women—as well as 24 attorneys and 35 staffers in Latin America and Atlanta. Four are men.
“Certainly if there was a more qualified male, I would hire him. But definitely among two equally qualified lawyers, I would pick the woman,” she said. “I’m certainly trying to do my part to promote women. I know the trending isn’t as positive as I’d like it to be in the legal industry. I’m trying to build the next generation of female lawyers.”
Siegel, who has worked at Fox Latin America for 11 years and previously headed NBC Universal Global Networks Latin America’s legal department, is known among general counsel for her all-female legal office. She typically gets ribbing when attending or speaking at general counsel conferences and legal seminars.
“Have you hired a man yet?” a prominent general counsel cracked at a recent South Florida Group or Regional Counsel conference as the audience laughed.
Siegel laughs along, but she makes sure to note her staff is highly qualified.
“They can take any of their male counterparts and show them up,” Siegel said. “I don’t feel my department lacks in terms of quality.”
She receives high praise from the Florida Association for Women Lawyers.
“It is always welcome news when qualified women are given the opportunity to succeed,” said Laura Wendell, immediate past president of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. “As a rule, most women lawyers practice in an environment in which they are the minority. It is a very positive sign that Fox Latin America so values the skills that qualified women bring to the table that it chooses to rethink the norm.”
Big On Collegiality
Janet Diaz-Pujol, executive director at Fox Latin America, doesn’t find the department unusual. When she tells people about it, she said their first impression is negative.
“To me, it’s a very normal thing,” she said. “When people find out we are a department of females, they are surprised at how collegial we are. They think we are at each other’s throats. But we work great as a team. It’s a great working environment.”
Siegel gets the same reaction.
“Our office goes against the stereotype of catty women,” she said. “This is definitely a collegial group.”
The office has a monthly birthday celebration for staffers, who often socialize after work and attend each other’s weddings and baby showers.
“The fact that we’re all friends, we can share stories and experiences,” Siegel said. “Of the five, half of us are married and a quarter of us have kids. It lends itself to lots of talking and sharing of experiences. I very much enjoy it.”
Siegel, who has two children, serves on an advisory board to the Mexico Institute and the board of the Miami Council for International Visitors. She encourages her staff to maintain a good work-life balance. Those who need to leave early to attend a child’s play or to take a day off to chaperone a school field trip are encouraged to do so—provided they complete their work.
“She says, ‘You guys are professionals. If you need to leave early to spend time with your family, then do it,’ ” Diaz-Pupol said. “That leads to happier employees. If you lock them into a time frame and chain them to their desk, they will just get bitter. We just have to be responsible about the things we have to take care of.”