Men Should Be Welcome Under the Women Lawyers’ Tent

I attend a lot of conferences for women lawyers, and I am beginning to get invitations to speak at them, too, and I really welcome that.  These gatherings present an opportunity for me to do new research, make certain that my existing research is valid, meet other women lawyers and stay current on the subjects of interest to women in our profession.  I see a lot of the same speakers at these events, and they are women who have “earned their stripes” and who have instant credibility in the arena of women lawyers.  Most of them teach me, and some of them inspire me.  But, every once in awhile someone disappoints me.

That happened at a conference a couple of years ago.  The subject of the panel discussion was the advancement of women lawyers to positions of management and leadership, and the dismal results of the annual report by the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) had just been presented.  That presentation was followed by a lot of discussion about how we can improve the situation for women lawyers, and one of the panelists presented a model that got my attention.  It was not that I had not heard it before, bandied about in casual conversation, but this time it was coming from a woman who I thought should have known better.

The premise was that we do not need men to help us solve the problems of retention, opportunities for partnership, equity in salary and myriad other issues that women in law face today.  The corresponding attitude was that we can do this without them and that we will do it by putting pressure on law firms through female general counsels of corporate clients—-a sort of “we’ll show them whose got the power” attitude.  In other words, we will flex our muscles and threaten to pull the work if the law firms do not comply with our demands for diversity.

Although I understand and respect the power of women general counsel in helping to bring about more diversity in law firms, I disagree with this exclusionary approach, and I said so at the time.  I think it is very shortsighted.  Are we really going to do to men what we have accused them of doing to us for generations?  Are we going to form our own Old Girls Clubs where men cannot gain entrance or have to come in through the kitchen door with the help?  Are we going to exclude men from seats at the table because we do not value their opinions or, worse, as reprisal ?  I think not.

On the contrary, I think that we need men at the table to make sure that management and leadership hear how difficult the challenges for women are and to educate them about the difficulties in finding satisfactory and lasting solutions.  We need the men to take co-ownership of the problems and to have a vested interest in improving conditions and finding solutions.

I am not a male basher in my personal or professional life.  I like men, but I certainly realize that they some times do not have much of a clue what our problems feel like.  But, I do not think that most of them wish me ill or want to “keep me down”.  There are always a few bad ones, but, as grandma used to say, “A few bad apples do not spoil the barrel.”  My most important practice mentors were men, and I am realistic enough to understand that they still control most of the legal institutions.

And, there is just no real evidence that men simply don’t care about these issues in this 21st Century.  This was demonstrated to me last fall when I participated on an American Bar Association panel about the special challenges to women lawyers.  The venue was unusual for that subject, and the audience consisted of about 80 men and 10 women lawyers.   Everyone in the room that day was totally attentive—no checking of watches and Iphones—and most of them were seasoned male lawyers.  At the conclusion of the conference, the attendees informally voted that panel the best of the two days.

We know that men just don’t get it when it comes to women’s issues, but that is the very reason we want them under the tent.  That way, we have a captive audience and can educate and influence.  It makes a lot more sense than excluding them.  We do that at our own risk.

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Thought For The Day

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

William James

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Thought For The Day

Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.

Wayne Dyer

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Women Lawyers as World Leaders

Last week I had a bit of an epiphany about the need for more women lawyers to stay in the profession.  I was scrolling through some recent news items on women leadership in preparation for a speech that I will deliver at a law firm later this week.

One of those news items caught my eye.  It reported the results of the recent Women in the World Summit held earlier this month in New York City.  The women who attended the Summit demonstrated, among other things, their understandings of alternatives to aggression and the importance of consensus in solving world problems.  They proved once again that women have unique contributions to make and that their value at the highest levels of government and diplomacy cannot be overstated.

As summarized on the web site The Women Worldwide Initiative,  “[Women] are creative, strong, compassionate and analytical – among millions of other incredible qualities. We commit to values, are conscious of our evolving selves, invoke passion and courage, arouse the imagination, create community and mentor the next generation. We do it all!”

That article also quoted Alyse Nelson, President and CEO, Vital Voices Global Partnership, saying, ““Women lead differently, and that difference is crucial,” and the Honorable Jane Harman, “Men run for office to be someone, women run for office to do something.”

It was an awesome and diverse group of women, and, like always, I fixated on the roles of women lawyers in this group.  Women like Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Legarde, Secretary of State Hillary ClintonCalifornia Congresswoman Jackie Speier, former California Congresswoman Jane Harman, and sisters California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Ford Foundation executive Maya L. Harris, to name just a few.

I began thinking about the importance of these women lawyers on both the domestic and the world stage and how that relates to my mission to retain women lawyers.  The point, of course, is that we need women lawyers not only to practice law and head corporations, but we also need them to assume other leadership roles, both at home and abroad.  So many of our most effective world leaders are women lawyers, and we must protect that talent pool to meet the challenges of the future and to advance solutions that are important to women throughout the world.  As we hear about the threats to women’s rights around the world, reported at this Summit, and we also experience issues related to women’s health clinics and women’s access to affordable birth control in our own country, we cannot help but understand the need for strong women’s voices.

So, take the broad view and think about how much good you can do in the world by both getting a legal education and continuing in some role to use it to improve human conditions throughout the world.  This particular role for women lawyers may be a small cog in a bigger wheel, but there is no denying that women lawyers are very important to the wheel that makes the world go around.

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Thought For The Day

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.
Norman Vincent Peale

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Thought For The Day

Women are leaders everywhere you look — from the CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household. Our country was built by strong women and we will continue to break down walls and defy stereotypes.

Nancy Pelosi

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Stanford University Says Girlfriend Time is Good For Your Health

My women friends are very important to me.  You know that if you have read my book or followed my blog.  However, I never thought of time spent with my beloved girlfriends as scientifically contributing to my good health.  Until now.

There is an article flying around the web that several of my friends have sent to me.  Here is an example:  http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=149797781715520.  I have tried to track down the original thesis of this professor without much success.  However, the subject of the Internet articles—research being done at Stanford University related to well-being and the connection between stress and disease and its particular application to women’s friendships with other women—is so compelling that I want to share the information with you even without my usual primary source citations.

It is reported that the head of psychiatry at Stanford University provided the following insight during one of his lectures on the subject of the mind-body connection,  “One of the best things that a man can do for his health is to be married to a women whereas, for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health is to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.”

The professor went on to explain the importance of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, that can combat depression and create general feelings of well-being.  It turns out that “girlfriend time” helps to create serotonin and that spending time with your girlfriends can be just as important to a woman’s health and well-being as physical exercise.

Imagine that!  Of course, we all knew how good girlfriend time can feel, but it is nice to know that there is a scientific reason for all of those good feelings encountered over cosmopolitans and shopping sprees with the girls or chick flick nights with no men allowed.

My new book, which will be released later this year, has complete chapters devoted to the importance of young women lawyers maintaining their friendships, especially their friendships with other women.  It is important to what I call the new balance for women lawyers.  Watch for information on the book release, and be sure to check it out.

You will no longer have to struggle with a legitimate reason to hang out with the girls or to feel guilty about time spent with girlfriends.  It is all in the name of good health—yours!

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Thought For The Day

The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world.

Charles Malik

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