Saturday, January 24, 2015
Men's club mentality keeping women out of partnerships, Managing Partner roundtable finds
Large law firms need to radically change their cultures and working practices if they are to succeed in creating gender-diverse partnerships.
That's the view that emerged at a Managing Partner roundtable, which considered why many firms are still failing to develop gender-balanced partnerships and senior management teams.
"I don't know that we'll ever be able to get to 50 per cent diversity until the business of law as practiced by large law firms today changes," said Gina N Shishima, US head of IP transactions and patent prosecutions, and US chief diversity officer at Norton Rose Fulbright.
Women typically constitute more than half of the trainees and associates, but make up less than 20 per cent of the partners at international firms and about a quarter of the partners at London, regional and national firms, on average.
At equity partner level, female representation is even lower, ranging from 15 to 17 per centamong the UK's top 25 firms, fractionally up from the 14 to 15 per cent recorded in 2008, according to PwC data.
"Based on data alone, women should have achieved nearly 50 per cent parity as partners at the turn of the century," commented Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership and executive-in-residence at the Boston College Center for Work & Family.
Law firm culture and unconscious bias play important parts in keeping women out of partnerships and senior management teams, according to panelists.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
WASHINGTON -- President Obama will call on Congress to require companies to give workers up to seven days of paid sick leave a year, a senior adviser said Wednesday.
Obama will also take executive action to give at least six weeks of paid leave to federal employees after the birth or adoption of a child, Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett said.
And Obama wants Congress to spend $2.2 billion to help states and cities develop paid family leave programs.
Jarrett announced the new initiatives in a post on the job networking site LinkedIn -- a venue chosen, she said, because its audience was best positioned to drive change in their own workplaces.
From Jarrett's announcement:
So on Thursday, President Obama will call on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow millions of working Americans to earn up to seven days a year of paid sick time — and call on states and cities to pass similar laws. The President will outline a new plan to help states create paid leave programs, and provide new funding through the Department of Labor for feasibility studies that will help other states and municipalities figure out the best way to implement programs of their own. And the President will sign a Presidential Memorandum that will ensure federal employees have access to at least 6 weeks of paid sick leave when a new child arrives and propose that Congress offer 6 weeks of paid administrative leave as well.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Thursday, January 8, 2015
The popular thinking is that the term went from empowering to delusional, running up against the hard truths of reality to get worn down to the spurious fantasy underneath. Feminists, according to this narrative, were the ones who promised women they could have it all — rewarding career, loving partner, cheerful brood — and then couldn’t deliver. Conservatives have been particularly enamored of this story. “Feminist groups like to pretend that women can have it all without sacrificing time with families,” Carrie L. Lukas, a managing director of the Independent Women’s Forum, wrote in her 2006 book about feminism. The Federalist peddled a similar argument: “Women ask about having it all because they were told they could have it all . . . by women like [Gloria] Steinem.”
The idea that feminism was the source for such a pernicious ideal has become so widely assumed that even Patricia Ireland, a former president of the National Organization for Women, seemed to subscribe to a variation of this notion. “Twenty years ago, it was a triumphant phrase and also a demand,” she told William Safire in 2001 for a column in this magazine, but “the phrase has come to carry with it a sense of being overwhelmed.” Hence the sad fate of the Career Bogeywoman, her soul sucked dry by her high-powered job, her children barely nourished by the dregs of maternal instinct that managed to survive her outsize ambition.
Once you start digging into the origins of the phrase, however, this narrative begins to unravel. “Having it all,” at least as it applies to women and work, has a relatively limited pedigree. Ruth Rosen, a scholar who has written extensively about the history of feminism, told me that you can’t find much archival evidence of the phrase before the tail end of the 1970s — and even then, it wasn’t so much a feminist mantra as a marketing pitch directed toward the well-heeled “liberated” consumer. In 1980, two years before Brown’s book, Joyce Gabriel and Bettye Baldwin published “Having It All: A Practical Guide to Managing a Home and a Career”; true to its promise, Gabriel and Baldwin’s book offers straightforward tips on how a working mother might make the most of her scarce time. (“Strive to do two things at once,” the authors advise, like letting your nail polish set while you blow-dry your hair.) Women’s magazines and Madison Avenue might have been selling the concept, but it was after Brown’s book landed on the best-seller list, Rosen says, that the phrase gathered real cultural momentum, becoming shorthand for having kids and a career.
Friday, January 2, 2015
What is afoot in Britain might provide lessons for the States:
Labour has called for widespread pay transparency across Britain, proposing legislation that would make it compulsory for big companies to publish the average difference between the pay of their male and female employees.
Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham, tabled a 10-minute rule bill to enact section 78 of the Equality Act (2010), which was introduced by Labour but abandoned by the coalition when it entered government. The section requires companies that employ more than 250 people to publish their gender pay gap figures.
The bill was backed by 258 MPs, with eight voting against, but it is unlikely to progress further before the general election without government backing. It isLiberal Democrat policy to enact section 78 of the Equality Act and Lib Dem MPs were given a free vote on the issue.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Two interesting recent articles from the NYT. One is about the status of LGBT folk in Cuba. An excerpt:
Mariela Castro, the daughter of the current president, Raúl Castro, has led the charge on legislative and societal changes [for LGBT rights] that have given rise to an increasingly visible and empowered community. In the process, she has carved out a rare space for civil society in an authoritarian country where grass-roots movements rarely succeed. Some Western diplomats in Havana have seen the progress on gay rights as a potential blueprint for expansion of other personal freedoms in one of the most oppressed societies on earth.
“It’s fine to criticize, but you also have to acknowledge that they’ve done good,” said John Petter Opdahl, Norway’s ambassador to Cuba, in a recent interview. Mr. Opdahl, who is gay, said his government gave Ms. Castro’s organization $230,000 over the last two years. “She has taken off a lot of the stigma for most people in the country, and she has made life so much better for so many gay people, not only in Havana but in the provinces.”
Another article revisits the Stanford undergraudates from the class of 1994.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Since Kerry Devine, 32, and her friends began having children, she has noticed a stark difference between her female friends in Auburn, Wash., where she lives, and those in England and Cyprus, where she grew up. In the United States, they almost all stopped working outside the home, at least until their children were in school. Yet, she says, she can’t think of a friend in Europe who left work after her children were born.
Ms. Devine quit her job after she had her first child, a girl, four years ago, because she thought 12 weeks of maternity leave was too short. “I just didn’t want to leave her in day care or pay for the expenses of it,” she said. When she gave birth to twin boys this year, a return to work — she had been a property manager for apartment buildings — looked even less plausible.
Her story would have played out differently, she said, if she had been living in her native England. Like many European countries, Britain offers a year of maternity leave, much of it paid, and protections for part-time workers, among other policies aimed at keeping women employed.
A randy Brooklyn judge turned the hallowed halls of justice into a seedy sleaze pit — sexually harassing his Orthodox Jewish secretary with lurid tales about his erotic adventures with a mistress, proudly striding shirtless around his chambers, and forcing her to pick up his soiled underwear, a new lawsuit charges.
Brooklyn civil court Judge David Schmidt, 61, tormented veteran court secretary Sharon Sabbagh, 57, by stroking her face, forcing her to give him hugs before she went home, and regaling her with explicit tales of sex with his mistress, the lawsuit alleges.
“When I have sex with my wife, I think of her,” Schmidt said, adding that he buys his fling underwear from Victoria’s Secret and that they have daily phone sex, the Brooklyn Supreme Court suit claims.
Saturday, December 6, 2014
Feminist Study of Irish Discrimination Reform Shows Law Reinforces Gendered Assumptions about Work and Family
From Robert Lekey, at Jotwell, The Careless Ideal Worker, reviewing Olivia Smith, Litigating Discrimination on Grounds of Family Status, 22 Fem. Legal Stud 175 (2014).
It will not surprise readers alive to anti-discrimination law’s limited capacity to transform systems that Ireland’s reform to protect workers in certain care relationships from discrimination based on their family status has reinforced gendered assumptions about care and workforce participation. However much its findings line up with our pessimistic hunches, Olivia Smith’s study is worth reading because it exemplifies an admirable kind of feminist scholarship: quantitatively and qualitatively empirical; theoretically grounded; alert to the intersection of gender with other grounds of disadvantage, such as class; and self-conscious of its limits.
Smith offers a “contextualized assessment” of a dozen years’ tribunal litigation under the “family status” discrimination ground. Prior to this ground’s adoption in the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011, women had challenged discrimination associated with their care obligations under the ground of gender. As Smith notes, that tack had confirmed the gendered view of care as women’s work. Yet while the gender-neutral ground of “family status” might signal that care obligations bear on men as well as on women, the litigation record shows it to have reinforced the gendered dynamics of Irish work and family life.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
A Colorado mother claims in a federal lawsuit that she was fired from her hairstylist job after she sought to take periodic work breaks to pump breast milk but was rebuffed by an employer who called the idea "gross," court documents showed on Tuesday.
Ashley Provino of Grand Junction said she asked permission from her employer, Big League Haircuts, to take breaks every four hours to pump breast milk for her infant son, according to a complaint filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.
Provino said the owner, Kyle Reed, “adamantly refused” her request, called the topic “gross,” retaliated by cutting her hours so she never worked more than four hours at a time, and ultimately fired her.
“Discrimination against breastfeeding mothers in the workplace is not only illegal, it is also bad for Colorado families and businesses, because it forces women out of the workplace,” ACLU cooperating attorney Paula Greisen said in a statement.
Reached by telephone, Reed said the lawsuit was “total fiction” and vowed to fight Provino's claims.
“She has dollar signs in her eyes and thinks she's going to win a million dollars,” he said.
The Supreme Court heard oral argument yesterday in Young v. UPS. The commentators have noted that some justices questioned the appropriateness of summary judgment here especially as to the question of what instances in fact were other workers given temporary light duties, and whether pregnant employees were asking for too many favors, granting them "most favored nation status" in the snarky words of the Fourth Circuit. As Justice Ginsburg retorted, it seems UPS was arguing for the converse, "least favored nation status."
See Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, Heavy Lifting: The Supreme Court is Flummoxed by Pregnancy Discrimination and Semi-colons. The so-called "after the semi-colon" debate seems to discount the legal issue as one of mere statutory interpretation. But it's much more than semantics. What's at issue is the second clause of the operative Pregnancy Discrimination law that imposes affirmative duties on an employer. The first clause, before the semi-colon, is a prohibition: do not discriminate on the basis of pregnancy. The second clause, after the semi-colon, says "women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work."
Kagan, who has been a one-justice Tasmanian devil all morning, concludes by informing Halligan [UPS attorney]: “What we know about the PDA is that it was supposed to be about removing stereotypes of pregnant women as marginal workers. It was supposed to be about ensuring that they wouldn’t be unfairly excluded from the workplace. And what you are saying is that there’s a policy that accommodates some workers, but puts all pregnant women on one side of the line.” This is why pro-life and pro-choice groups and most women’s groups have crossed the ideological divide to support Young in this case: The PDA was intended to prevent women workers from being forced to choose between their jobs and their babies.
Underlying the debate seems to be the old public v. private sphere divide. Some of the arguments and questions from the justices seem to make much of the fact that pregnancy is a private choice, something that happens to a woman outside of work, like an injury to a male worker playing on his all terrain vehicle (ATV) on the weekend. (Facepalm to Alito's analogy here: idiosyncratic extreme sports v. commplace, fact of life and constitutionally-protected status). As a private choice, an employer in the public sphere has no obligation regarding that private choice.
For more debriefing, see
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Germany’s top listed companies will be required to have 30% of their board positions filled by women under a law agreed today by Angela Merkel’s coalition parties.
The law, due to come into effect in 2016, aims to create greater gender equality in the workplace of Europe’s biggest economy where, despite having a female leader and 40% of the federal cabinet being female, women are significantly under-represented.
According to the The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin), just 6% of management board positions and 22% of supervisory board seats are held by women among the 30 companies on Germany’s blue-chip DAX index trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
Friday, November 28, 2014
This is a deeply gendered issue, and not just because low-wage retail workers are disproportionately female. Holidays are a time when the domestic demands put on women escalate. While some families are more progressive, the fact remains that, in most families, women are expected to do almost all the cooking, cleaning, present-wrapping, decorating, and planning. ***
State Rep. Mike Foley is trying to attack this problem by pushing a bill in Ohio that would triple the minimum wage on Thanksgiving Day. It's a brilliant idea, and not just because it increases the compensation for people who are dragged into work that day. Since there's no increased profitability for being open on Thanksgiving, if employers have to pay more to make no more money, they might reconsider this ridiculous trend of forcing retail workers to work on what is supposed to be a national holiday.
Monday, November 24, 2014
This summer, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and other Silicon Valley superpowers released demographic reports on their workforces. The reports confirmed what everyone already knew: tech is a man’s world. Men make up sixty to seventy per cent of employees at these companies, and, notwithstanding rock stars like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, senior leadership is even more overwhelmingly male. A recent study by the law firm Fenwick & West found that forty-five per cent of tech companies there didn’t have a single female executive. (The picture is also bleak when it comes to ethnic diversity.) The Valley seems to take the problem seriously—Apple’s Tim Cook recently stated his commitment to “advancing diversity”—but there’s a long way to go.
A familiar explanation for tech’s gender disparity is the so-called pipeline problem: the percentage of female computer-science graduates has almost halved since the nineteen-eighties. But this doesn’t fully explain why there are so few women in senior management or on company boards (where skills other than programming matter). Nor can it explain the high rate of attrition among women in tech. A 2008 study found that more than half of women working in the industry ended up leaving the field. The pipeline isn’t just narrow; it’s tapering.
From the New Republic:
Conventional wisdom suggests that people with greater authority at work should be mentally and physically healthier than those without it. They can afford to take care of themselves and aren’t tied to the daily (unhealthy) grind. But a new study, to be published in the December issue of Journal of Health and Social Behavior, suggests that men and women react differently to the pressures of a high-powered career.
The study examined 1,300 middle-aged men and 1,500 middle-aged women from Wisconsin over a period of several decades, looking at responses to a survey gathered when the respondents were 54 and 65 years old. Women with higher levels of job authority (defined as control over one’s work, the ability to hire and fire others, and control their pay) showed more depressive symptoms than women without job authority. With men, the opposite was true: Lower levels of authority correlated with higher levels of depressive symptoms.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Well, Ms Rybody, it’s funny that you should ask this for, truly, this has become the biggest fashion question – possibly even the only fashion question – in not just the world, but the entire cosmos. For anyone who might have missed it, last week there was some dinky story about a probe landing on a comet for the first time ever. I know what you’re thinking: “Probe, schmobe, get to the real issue here – what was one of the scientists wearing?!?!?!?” Glad to be of service! The project scientist, Dr Matt Taylor, appeared on TV wearing a shirt patterned with images of semi-clothed women that I assume (not being an expert in either of these fields) reference video games and heavy metal albums. Cue internet rage! Everything that followed was utterly predictable, but not especially edifying. The story went through the five cycles of internet rage: initial amusement; astonishment; outrage; backlash to the outrage; humiliated apology. First, our attention was drawn to the shirt via some sniggering tweets; this was swiftly followed by shock and its usual accompaniment, outrage, with some women suggesting the shirt reflected a sexism at the heart of the science community. As generally happens when a subject takes a feminist turn on the internet, the idiots then turned up, with various lowlifes telling the women who expressed displeasure at the shirt to go kill themselves. (This is not an exaggeration, and there is no need to give these toerags further attention in today’s discussion.)
Just as a simple error on the part of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s driver led to the start of the first world war, so this stupid shirt sparked the beginning of World War Shirt. The scientist knew he had to respond and so, during what I am told by youngsters is called a “Google Hangout”, Dr Smith issued a tearful apology for his shirt. Rumours that the offending shirt, stiff with dried salty tears, has been spotted in Dr Smith’s local charity shop have yet to be confirmed.
Look, I didn’t especially like his shirt, but I also don’t think one can expect much more of a heavily inked dude with a well-established penchant for bad T-shirts. As a cursory search on Google Images (hard research here, people!) proves, this one, while not in the best of taste, was clearly part of that tendency. Yes, it’s an embarrassing shirt and yes, it was a stupid shirt to wear on international TV. But the man is – classic batty scientist cliche – so absentminded that, according to his sister, he regularly loses his car in car parks. So if Taylor committed any crime, it was a crime of bad taste and stupidity rather than burn-him-at-the-stake sexism.
And, well said conclusion:
I totally understand why some women were offended by Taylor’s shirt, and I especially understand the frustration felt by female scientists who feel marginalised enough in their profession without high-profile men wearing shirts featuring half-naked women. But I can’t help but feel that outrage would be better spent on complaining about how few women were present in the control room for the probe landing. There are so many signifiers of sexism in the world and – I believe (again, not an expert in this field) – the science world that to attack a man for his shirt feels a little bit like fussing at a leaky tap when the whole house is under a tidal wave. Some people online have suggested that Taylor’s shirt proves he is a misogynist, or that he sees women purely as sex objects, or that he revels in marginalising them. Personally, if I saw a male colleague wearing that shirt, my reaction would be amazement that a grown man has the fashion taste of a 13-year-old. There is a difference – and I concede, the difference may be fuzzy in some cases – between enjoying the weird fantasy-world depiction of women, and seeing actual women as sex objects. Taylor has the right to wear whatever pig-ugly shirt he likes, and people have the right to be outraged by it. But when that outrage leads to a grown man weeping on TV, perhaps we all need to ask if this outrage is proportionate. My God, I’m a fashion bitch and even I don’t want to make anyone cry over my comments about their clothes.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who is eight months pregnant and cannot travel to Washington, will not be allowed to vote by proxy in the upcoming leadership battles, as Democrats refused to make an exception to their hard-and-fast rules about proxy voting.
National Journal reports that Duckworth, a Iraq War veteran and double amputee, wrote a letter to her colleagues, asking that she be allowed to participate in the votes:
I think Nancy got this one wrong. Pelosi Dismisses "Fuss" Over Denial of Proxy Vote to Pregnant Lawmaker
Pelosi raised eyebrows last week when she emerged as a leading opponent of Duckworth's request, not least because the California liberal has made women's empowerment issues — including efforts to bolster family leave for working women — a central plank of the Democrats' policy platform.***
Pelosi, didn't mention the Eshoo-Pallone contest Monday, but said she spoke with Duckworth — "a lovely conversation" — and urged her to savor the experience of becoming a mother.
"I was one of the ones who said to Congresswoman Duckworth, 'Don't come back here. This is a most glorious experience of your life, the center of the universe will change for you when you have this precious new baby,' " Pelosi said.
Umm... Is this a senior woman mentor who has climbed to success pulling up the ladder behind her? "In my day, we didn't grant no proxies for pregnancy. I traveled 5000 miles in my 9th month of pregnancy, in the snow, to give my vote."
Pelosi made the slippery slope argument. Once we grant one person an exception, everybody wants one, and then geez, how do you decide. Well, let's see. Some, like pregnancy are a protected status. And others are not.
BTW, Nancy, Washington Post, it's representative not "congresswoman."
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Deborah N. Misir is in the sixth month of a high-risk pregnancy. So Ms. Misir, a Long Island lawyer, has asked that an upcoming trial for one of her clients — set for about two months before her due date — be postponed.
Doctors told Ms. Misir, 42, to “avoid stress, pressure and upsetting confrontations, which could result in medical complications that could threaten the life of my baby,” according to a letter she wrote on Wednesday to the judge.
But thus far, Ms. Misir’s request has gone nowhere: The United States attorney’s office has fought the proposed delay, and the judge, citing her health, even asked about a trip to Washington that she said she was planning.
“I am puzzled by the U.S. attorney’s office’s objection to any adjournment due to my pregnancy,” Ms. Misir said. “Pregnancy — much less high-risk pregnancy — has long been recognized in this country as a legal disability requiring accommodation."***
In an Oct. 20 letter to the judge opposing the request, prosecutors wrote that the case had been long pending; that Ms. Misir had agreed previously to the January date; and that she had a “highly experienced and able” co-counsel. The government also cited Mr. Tabone’s right to a speedy trial, adding, “The court should not countenance further delay of the trial.” ***
She wrote that she had worked as a Justice Department lawyer, as an ethics lawyer in the White House and as a deputy assistant secretary of labor for policy.
“In over 17 years of federal practice,” she said, “I have never been treated so disrespectfully, brutally, and with lack of basic civility by opposing counsel, as has occurred in this court.”
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
From the New Republic (also contains a video feed):
In an interview with NPR earlier this fall, pre-school teacher Glen Peters recounted, “They couldn't find the bathroom code for the men's bathroom, so I actually had to go to the women's room while someone stood guard outside the bathroom. I knew at that moment that I was a bit of a unicorn.” Peters is part of the small cohort of males teaching pre-school nationally; in fact, barely 2 percent of early education teachers are men, according to 2012 labor statistics. And with universal pre-K taking center stage in our country’s most populous city, the absence of male influence at this stage of development is getting increased scrutiny.
Steven Antonelli, currently the director for Bank Street Head Start, has spent more than two decades working in early childhood education and has experienced first-hand the challenges men in this field face. In an interview with New Republic executive editor Greg Veis, Antonelli considers these hurdles and the importance of early childhood education.