Retention of women lawyers is at the heart of Best Friends at the Bar. However, how to get that retention right is still a much debated question. A recent article on Forbes/85 Broads gets it about as right as I have seen—except in the Best Friends at the Bar books, of course! The focus of the article is on female executives in business, but the overlap with women lawyers makes it great food for thought.
The article starts by moving away from the concept of work-life balance as the traditional focus of retention. Even though I have written a book on the subject of work-life balance, I applaud the broader view. I also know that true “balance” is not a realistic goal. As the article suggests and as I have written, it is all about tradeoffs. Minimizing the impact of the lack of balance is all we can really hope for.
A focus of the article is on finding ways to mitigate senior women retention challenges by examining how decisions are made within organizations and how problem solving and collaboration takes women’s leadership styles into consideration. Daring to be different is not enough. The people around us must recognize those differences and embrace them for the sake of best practices.
Some of the important questions posed in the article have to do with why women leave jobs at the top of their careers, at the height of their expertise, and when their networks are honed and most effective, which allows them to attract clients as never before. This is a quandary for sure, and the answer suggested by the article has to do with inclusion. You know, that “old saw” about how women need to feel that they are part of the group. Well, it is true. Women leaders often feel like they are isolated, and those feelings of isolation can be exaggerated after return from maternity leave. However, it also seems to be a fundamental truth that women need to feel integral to the process and measured outcomes of business (and law) efforts at most times in their careers.
The solution suggested in this article is to have organization leaders listen to what women need and be responsive. Since the current research shows that organizations, which have women leaders at the senior level, outperform organizations that are male dominated, you would think this would be a no-brainer for organizations. After all, isn’t it always about the most healthy bottom line?
As a result of this way of thinking, it becomes a business and strategic imperative to retain senior women—-not a gender issue. How refreshing.
If you are interested in the specific advice to organizations for improving the female retention issues, read the article. Most of the solutions involve men listening to women.
That may prove harder than we think, but hope springs eternal.