Feminism, Gender, Women's Issues

Twelve Crises for Corporate Women

Women lawyers pay.JPGA new book details the challenges that women face as they try to climb the corporate ladder. Author Kathy Caprino argues that in many instances women’s contributions are hard to compare against “hours” and “profits.”

Careful not to blame their male counterparts, Caprino says many female professionals are dominated at work by generally white-male competitive career models that emphasize linear career paths and the assumption that top-performing women are motivated most by money and power.

Nicole Nehama Auerbach, of the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law Firms, takes Caprino’s analysis a step further and argues that women have been socialized in ways that aren’t always compatible with Biglaw success:

Women often bring intangibles to the firm such as nurturing business and a knack for making client teams work, Auerbach says. And these are qualities are difficult to quantify compared to billing hours in a profit-driven world.

“I think a lot of the issues she seizes upon would never be issues men would point to as a reason for not succeeding,” Auerbach says. “Traditionally, women are not as vocal about getting what they want; women were previously conditioned not to complain. That’s very different from the way a lot of men were raised.”

Is this type of analysis really all that helpful? More after the jump.

Are “nurturing” deals and non-linear career paths really what Biglaw women want? Earlier this year, Deborah Epstein Henry, founder and president of Flex-Time Lawyers, made a good point:

“What we are looking for is firms that have work/life policies that are gender neutral,” Henry said. “I firmly believe that the more we can move work/life issues away from being a ‘mommy’s issue’ the better off we’ll be.”

Obviously, some women want to be able to raise a family and compete in Biglaw. Some men would surely like to do the same thing.

But a lot of women aren’t asking their firms to value their contributions differently than their male counterparts.

Is the problem that women have not been socialized to speak up and be aggressive? Or is the problem that outspoken aggressiveness doesn’t get women as far as men?

Additionally, while embracing a ‘good enough’ attitude is sound advice for female lawyers struggling to balance work and private life, Auerbach says the reality is often more difficult for attorneys who want to give the best to every client.

Women raising families often find that you cannot do every single thing in the most perfect way always, Auerbach says. However, “I would hate to tell a client, I’ve given you good enough.”

It’s very difficult to raise a family and bill the insane amount of hours required to make partner in Biglaw. But not every woman is trying to “balance” the two. “Family issues” and “women’s issues” are not synonymous.

Are Mid-Career Female Attorneys in Crisis? [ABA Journal]

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