Sex Discrimination v. Equality At BigLaw and Other Workplaces
I know I have been prolific these past few months about gender equality, sexual harassment, retaliation, and equal pay (or lack thereof).
I’ve talked to you about a myriad of scenarios: sex discrimination and unequal pay at BigLaw (also see Rich’s excellent BigLaw post here) and for the U.S. Women’s Soccer team and sexual harassment, retaliation, and “locker room banter” at Harvard, at Fox News following the Gretchen Carlson/Roger Ailes fiasco and settlement, at Fuddruckers, at ad agencies, our state capitols, and at fire departments around the country.
My partner Rich Cohen and I have given you a plethora of guidance about how to minimize liability for your company through strong policies, training, and education of your employees. We’ve explained that true parity in the workplace can raise productivity and efficiency, and we have told you that a solid anti-discrimination policy and dismantling of “bro culture” must come from the “top down” or “trickle down.”
So where are we now?
Where are workplaces and BigLaw firms?
FisherBroyles Is NOT BigLaw
Well, I’ll tell you where I am at my workplace—a state of real equality probably for the first time ever.
As Rich explained here, the model at a cloud-based firm such as FisherBroyles provides attorneys with a much better quality of life while affording clients efficient services at predictable and flexible rates without legal fees incorporating costs for inexperienced associates or top-of-the-line, modern office suites complete with museum-worthy artwork.
Because FisherBroyles partners can work from a home office or an outside office of their own choosing, the model achieves true gender equality. Yes, I said that.
There is only incentive to work with good, smart people. Everyone works hard, and everyone succeeds on his or her own merits. Gender can’t play a part.
A Few Good Men…And Incredible Women
After nearly a year at FisherBroyles, this is what I’ve experienced and have to show for it:
1) Far more income (I could stop here, I know.);
2) Flexibility so that I can be the parent I want to be for my three kids (two with special needs) while still doing work I love;
3) Male colleagues who absolutely champion me in calls, for cases, and at meetings—Paul, Ken, Marty. Paul, especially, has supported me for years, driving business my way, and encouraging me to work on a larger platform.
4) Men who respect my opinion, my work, and work ethic—all of the aforementioned along with Jack (a seasoned pro with far greater knowledge yet always seeks my advice and opinion and the cases we work on together) and Tony;
5) And of course, my partner Rich, who I thought would want to edit and tone down every article I wrote for this blog but instead told me how terrific my voice is, lauds my posts far and wide, and has moved over so we could share this space.
The diverse group of men here treat me as an equal and with respect, appreciate my messages, and value my insight. They seek my opinion on their cases and want to work with me and not have me work for them—on their cases and mine. My male partners help create a gender-inclusive workplace.
There is complete transparency here on all financial issues. You know what everyone is doing and what everyone is earning. The model works. It engenders equality among the sexes.
I have friends and I have mentors. I am learning and I am teaching. It is eye-opening.
After being a D.C. lawyer for more than twenty years—and all that implies and entails—at big firms and small firms, with companies that did me a favor by granting me maternity leave, partners resentful that I could write a good brief in 3 hours and wanted to work part-time, and, honestly, true misogynists—I have finally found equality, a home for my practice, and an appreciation of my hard work.
And the women. Good lord. The partners I’ve worked with—Christina, Jessica, and Debi—are so diversely talented, whip-smart, and just plain cool, that it is a true pleasure when I can call one for advice in her jurisdiction because it’s out of my own, or to work on a case with me, or one calls me. I know I am lucky.
As Rich eloquently put it, the model is a win-win. For clients, for partners, and for the very notion of equal treatment of all employees. If you don’t do good work, you won’t do well. No matter your gender, age, race, or religion. As it should be.
Where To Go From Here—Employer Takeaways
The only answer is parity, which breeds employee satisfaction and increases revenue. The lack of a “bro club” here tends to create this equality as does full accountability. So if you’re stuck in BigLaw, consider defecting; but you aren’t, for your workplace, here are some tips gleaned from the Women in the Workplace 2016 LeanIn/McKinsey study, which we wrote about last month:
- Make a compelling case for gender diversity. Tell your employees why gender diversity is so important and how it benefits the entire company. And, as we’ve said time and time again, senior leaders play a key role. Have open, candid conversations about it, and be transparent about your gender metrics.
- Ensure the fairness of hiring, promotions, and reviews. Have a strong policy promoting gender diversity and implement it, filtering out any inherent bias where you find it. One example suggested by the study is to conduct blind résumé reviews to reduce any chance of gender bias.
- Employee training. As I emphasized here, here, and practically everywhere, substantive, hands-on training is critical.
- Focus on accountability and results. Use targets to set goals for hiring, promotions, and equal pay.
Finally, if you’re a man, support a woman in your workplace. Sexual inequality and discrimination and unequal pay are not just “women’s issues.” Rather, discrimination and inequality create a culture of divisiveness and disrespect, which becomes your entire workplace’s issue.