Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Gianmarco Monsellato is a partner at the No. 5 law firm in France. His firm also has 50/50 gender balance at every level--including equity partnership.
How did he do it? Dramatically differently than most law firms. Most of his competitors have spent years organizing women’s initiatives, networks, or mentoring programs that have done little to increase the percentage of women reaching the top. The National Association of Women Lawyers’ recent report is pretty clear: These “fix the women” approaches have not delivered.
Monsellato puts the burden squarely on the partner himself to be extremely proactive:
Instead, Monsellato tackled the problem personally. He was involved in every promotion discussion. “For a long time,” he says, “I was the only one allocating cases.” He insisted on gender parity from the beginning. He personally ensured that the best assignments were evenly awarded between men and women. He tracked promotions and compensation to ensure parity. If there was a gap, he asked why. He put his best female lawyers on some of his toughest cases. When clients objected, he personally called them up and asked them to give the lawyer three months to prove herself. In every case, the client was quick to agree and managed to overcome the initial gender bias.
The idea is intriguing. It is also an idea that probably requires the right combination of corporate culture, amenable clients, and, most importantly, a highly deft corporate leader who also possesses an unusal charisma and great foresight about business productivity. Not easy to duplicate this model.