Damage Control for the Female Talent Drain

Finally.  Some action to stop the perpetual talent drain resulting from women leaving the workforce because of the challenges of conflicting home/family and professional life responsibilities.  It is very good news that a consulting giant like McKinsey is tackling the problem and trying to recruit women back to the company—specifically those women who left because of work-life issues.  In the Wall Street Journal on-line article, McKinsey Tries to Recruit Mothers Who Left the Fold, it is clear that, although it is not yet a company-wide policy, it is a first sign that companies are “re-examining some of the most basic terms of women’s working lives.”

The author of the WSJ article, Leslie Kwoh, cites the impact on highly skilled professions like consulting and banking—-and I certainly would add law to that list—of the loss of talent to the work-life challenges. The article also discusses the efforts of other consulting companies in tackling the women talent drain issues and launching innovative programs.

Bravo and compliments to McKinsey!  I hope this catches on in law firms.  We are losing so many talented women lawyers because of work-life issues, and we must do something to get them back and get them to stay.  Although I always encourage young women to look within themselves for the strength to handle the responsibilities of our profession and how it uniquely affects women, I also know that institutional solutions are very important and necessary.  It is high time for law firms and other law employers to address these issues—-to safeguard diversity and to protect best practices, if for nothing else.  Businesses should understand the value of talent to the quality of services and products but also to the succession plans that need to be in place when the Baby Boomers start retiring.

AND that will happen as soon as the economy show signs of permanent recovery.  You can bet on it.  If the female mid-level associates and young partners have left and taken all their experience and talent, what will there be to replace them when the Boomers need to pass the work down into capable hands?  New associates?  I don’t think so.  They are still too low on the learning curve to handle that.  Male mid-level associates?  Perhaps, but statistics show that it is women students who are at the top of law school classes in terms of GPAs and honors and represent the best in the talent pool.  So, it is risky business to have all that important institutional client work passed into the hands of the not-so accomplished.  Lateral hires?  That gets pretty expensive, and good business folks should want another solution.

That solution is so obvious.  Make arrangements in the workplace to allow the mommy/lawyers to stay on the  job in a capacity that will satisfy their desires to use their educations and talents on quality work and to also have more time to deal with their dual roles—whether that is flex time or part-time or some other variation.  Get creative and protect the natural resources that women lawyers represent.  Women are very loyal employees.  Be good to them, and they will be good to you.  Make it a win-win solution.

Let’s work together to plug the talent drain.  Women lawyers will see their children leave the nest, and they will experience new energy and enthusiasm for their professional lives.  They will light the afterburners!  Because, at that point, they can.  If law firms have created safe harbors during the very challenging work-life years, providing those safe harbors will pay off in spades.

But, you have to try it to see if you like it!  Just like Mikey in those beloved cereal commercials.  Sitting on the sidelines will not get the job done.

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