Bar News - September 14, 2012
Gender Equality Training: Close-up on Session 2: Eliminating Gender Bias in Recruiting, Promotion Practices
By: Lauren S. Irwin
As author Lauren Rikleen noted in her first book, Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women’s Success in the Law: "The state of the profession at the turn of the new century is troubling. Women lawyers still face a grueling gauntlet of challenges. The factors that have derailed the career expectations of too many women now threaten the future of the profession: spiraling compensation demands that are seldom satiated; unpredictable (and frequently, unfathomable) decisions about who will be elected to partner status; loosely formed, intermediate management positions where lawyers inexperienced in such roles often serve with ambivalence; and a workplace reluctant to invest in the well-being of its primary asset – the human capital by which it is able to continue feeding its hunger for growing revenues.
"These issues are all interrelated and, together, form a barely penetrable barrier through which only a small number of women pass. For those that emerge on the other side, the price of transport has been high, and is frequently accompanied by a bewildering disappointment."
The 2009 New Hampshire Bar Association Gender Equality Committee (GEC) survey highlighted some disturbing facts about the advancement of women in New Hampshire’s legal community. (See NH Bar Journal, Summer 2010 issue which has several articles on the findings from several viewpoints.)
The Gender Equality Committee’s training initiative now underway is designed to promote gender equality and diversity in law firms and other organizations employing attorneys in New Hampshire. (See accompanying ad for more on the upcoming sessions.)
The Oct. 11 session will focus on the recruitment, evaluation, promotion and mentoring of women. Examining biases and other factors that prevent the retention of talented female attorneys will allow participants to implement change in their own firms, courts, and agencies.
Practice and Parenthood
The 2009 survey found that almost twice as many female attorneys as male attorneys made the decision to postpone parenthood for their careers, and almost four times as many female attorneys as male attorneys made the decision to postpone parenthood for partnership.
In the 2009 survey, female attorneys continued to report that they regularly observed subtle discrimination in their law practices, including condescending treatment, inappropriate comments on their appearance/apparel, and lack of inclusion in management decisions.
The 2009 survey reported that 82.9 percent of male attorneys with more than 10 years in practice at law firms or offices with 10 or more attorneys are either equity or non-equity partners, while only 60 percent of similarly situated female attorneys are either equity or non-equity partners.
If we cannot find ways to attract, retain, and promote qualified female attorneys, we will lose half of the talent available to provide valuable services to New Hampshire’s citizens and will lose the revenue that would result from retaining these women.
Objectives for October
- Examine unconscious biases that contribute to the failure to attract and retain female attorneys, particularly in the assignment and evaluation process;
- Help identify what practices may impede female attorneys’ advancement;
- Get the "big picture" on the national perspective relating to these issues;
- Learn best practices that can help recruit, evaluate, promote, and mentor female talent and achieve gender equality.
Our Top-Notch Speaker
The Session 2 speaker, Lauren Stiller Rikleen, will lead the training session on eliminating gender bias in recruiting, mentoring, evaluating, and promoting women. She is a nationally recognized expert on developing a thriving, diverse workforce.
Rikleen, a former equity partner at the law firm of Bowditch & Dewey, LLP, launched the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership to help businesses and other organizations create a culture where their professionals can advance and flourish. She is also executive-in-residence at Boston College’s Center for Work & Family in the Carroll School of Management. Established in 1990, the center links academic research and corporate practice to create workplace cultures that support individual and organizational success.
Rikleen has a significant background in bar leadership. From August 2008 until August 2011, she served on the ABA Board of Governors, and from 2005 to 2008, she was one of 12 members on the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession. Currently, she is a member of the newly-created ABA Presidential Task force on Gender Equity; incoming secretary of the Individual Rights & Responsibility Section; a member of the Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity; and a member of the Law Student Advisory Council. She is also a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and trustee of the Boston Bar Foundation.
The former president of the Boston Bar Association, Rikleen established its Task Force on Professional Challenges and Family Needs, which produced the much-quoted report, "Facing the Grail – Confronting the Costs of Work/Family Imbalance." Rikleen was the only non-New York lawyer appointed to the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession.
She writes frequently and is quoted in publications around the country. Her first book, Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women’s Success in the Law, provides valuable insights into all aspects of today’s law firms and the institutional impediments to the retention and advancement of women in the legal profession. Her second book, Success Strategies for Women Lawyers, provides an in-depth look at the steps needed to address the ongoing challenge of advancing women in the legal profession. Rikleen is currently writing a book about millennials in the workplace.
We are truly fortunate to have this nationally respected expert participate in our training initiative. For more information about Lauren Stiller Rikleen, please go to www.Rikleeninstitute.com.
For more details on the programs, please visit www.nhbar.org to register for the remaining sessions of the Gender Equality Training Initiative.