January 20, 2012

Do you have time to be a rainmaker?



How do you become a rainmaker? I found out the answer.

I spent the last few weeks interviewing women at law firms for a big Miami Herald article I wrote on women in law. I asked lawyers why more women aren't making it to the top at big firms-- a status known as equity partner. Being an equity partner means you have ownership in the firm and a say in how it's managed. That's a prestigious and important role for men and women.

The response to my question of why only 16 percent of partners at the country's big firms are women was that not enough women are rainmakers.

Rainmaking is a skill. It requires making strong relationships with the right people and being bold enough to ask them for business. To be a rainmaker on a scale big enough to convince law firms to make you a firm owner, you must pull in huge dollar volumes of business.

What I repeatedly heard was that rainmaking is a HUGE time commitment. First, it takes time to learn the skills from someone willing to teach you. Then, it could take travel, attending social events, inviting key players on golf outings or to sports events at nights and on weekends. This is all on top of being good at your day job -- in this case, practicing law.

As I probe further, I uncovered numbers from studies that show most male law partners have stay at home wives. Most female law partners have spouses who work. Most female partners who have climbed and reached equity partner status either don't have kids or they have spouses who work VERY flexible jobs and do most of the caregiving at home.

So in the end, reaching the top takes learning rainmaking skills and having time to put them into practice while still mastering your day job. It makes me wonder whether enough women are willing to devote the HUGE amount of time it takes to make significant change in the stats. Plenty of men aren't willing to make the time commitment! But even as more women have gone into the practice of law, the number of those at the top hasn't changed in two decades. 

Are women being excluded or are they choosing not to become rainmakers? Is rainmaking on a grand scale too time consuming for women trying to do it all?


August 26, 2011

Court Ruling Against Working Moms Brings Attention to Work-Life Balance

Mom blogs heated up this week after a shocking court ruling.

A group of women at Bloomberg Media claimed they were passed over for promotions after having children. The sued, and lost.

The judge says they were not discriminated against and that the law does not require companies to provide a balance between work and home life. The judge found that “even if there were several isolated instances of individual discrimination,” the commission had insufficient evidence to prove that discrimination was the company’s “standard operating procedure.” 

 Judge Loretta Preska:

 Absent evidence of a pattern of discriminatory conduct . . . the EEOC's pattern or practice claim does not demonstrate a policy of discrimination at Bloomberg. It amounts to a judgment that Bloomberg, as a company policy, does not provide work/life balance.


The editorial director of Working Mother magazine calls that a step backwards. "The best and most productive companies are those who have workers who are satisfied and feel engaged at home and at work," says Jennifer Owens.

While that's true, is it realistic to believe companies should care about our work life balance? Most of us working moms know that to succeed at high levels, you have to make some tough choices. I hate admit that high level female managers often lack balance in their personal lives. It takes long days to get ahead and many of us choose not to make those sacrifices. But I do get angry when I hear about a working mom who works her buns off and gets passed over for a promotion.

What do you think? Are women with kids discriminated against at most big companies? Should companies be required to provide a balance between work and home life?


July 05, 2011

Can you sue a workplace bully?

One of my friends has been complaining to me that she is miserable at work. Her boss has been bullying her. A single mom, she’s in no position to quit her job without finding another and we all know the job market stinks right now.

Last week, I wrote my Miami Herald column on workplace bullying. I received tons of response. It seems on-the-job bullying is every bit the epidemic that workplace experts were telling me it is -- and it's making people miserable. So, I decided to have an employment lawyer weigh in. I wanted to hear some of the questions a lawyer is asked and share the responses.

Here’s my Q & A with Jezabel Llorente of  Miami-based  Levine Kellogg Lehman Schneider & Grossman: 


Jezabel Photo-PR

Q.  Do people who are bullied contact attorneys?

A. Yes, they don’t understand what actionable harassment is. They say “my boss is harassing me’ but when we start chatting, I learn that the boss is a nasty person to work with, but there’s nothing discriminatory or actionable to sue for.

Q. So someone who is bullied doesn’t have a  legal case?

 A. Job dissatisfaction is not actionable.

Q. How often to you hear the bullying complaint?

A. Pretty often. However, about half of the people who come for a consultation don’t have a case. I have to explain the distinction -- being treated distastefully by a bad manager is not enough. You have got to more prove more, that there’s some type of discrimination or sexual harassment for it to be actionable. Courts don’t want to manage business disputes and personality clashes. That’s not what courts are there to do. It’s always smart to consult an attorney. I am happy to speak on phone to anyone and give them an honest evaluation. If you feel something is wrong, make the call.

Q. Do you tell people who don’t have a legal case to file at complaint at work?

A. In this market, if people have a job they want to keep it. I tell them there’s no downside to going to HR and registering their concern. But I don’t tell them this person has to legally stop being the way they are. They don’t’ have to treat you sweetly.

Q. What’s the distinction between bullying and gender discrimination?

A. If a woman or a man is doing a job and the boss wants him or her to act in a certain way that has no impact on the job, that’s a problem. If the boss is telling everyone to be more aggressive, then that’s fine. If he’s saying you’re not tough enough because you are a woman, that’s a problem. Also, if you’re making your sales numbers and he’s still telling you to be more aggressive and you’re receiving some type of adverse impact, not getting a bonus, that also becomes problem.

Q. When someone comes to you with that type of case, is it easy to determine whether there’s a legitimate case for gender discrimination?

A. Sometimes it’s borderline. In the cases I have been seeing 50 percent are not actionable. There are cases that are harder and I tell the client it could go either way. To me it could be interrupted as discrimination or just as being a tough boss or bully. Still, it’s always good to get a legal opinion.




March 21, 2011

The Boss's Daughter and your work life balance

Dad_daughter(3) Most of us working mothers still hold out hope that our boss will be understanding of the pull between work and family and that they will pay us as well as our male counterparts. If you have a male boss, you are going to want to check out the family photos in his office, notes blogger Vivia Chen.

A new study found men's attitudes about working women are affected by the gender of their kids.

A report by the Columbia Business School (hat tip: The Juggle at The Wall Street Journal), about a study that looked at the salaries of over 700,000 workers at 6,230 firms in Denmark. It found  male CEOs with daughters tend to treat female employees more fairly. (The research was conducted by David Gaddis Ross of Columbia, Michael Dahl of Aalborg University in Denmark, and Cristian Dezsö of the University of Maryland.) Denmark is a gold mine for this type of study, because it maintains detailed demographic statistics about its workforce.

The study found a short time after male CEOs had daughters, women’s wages rose relative to men’s, shrinking the gender wage gap at their firms. The birth of a son, in contrast, had no effect on the wage gap. Researcher Ross says: "It follows that CEOs may be more apt to see their more educated women employees as resembling a possible future incarnation of their daughters."

Chen, whose blog, The Careerist ,runs on the lawjobs.com site, says several women lawyers she spoke with aren't convinced that men with daughters are more sympathetic to female employees. "It should be true in theory, but I don't see it in my experience,"  one New York associate told her, adding that partners who have adult daughters in the workforce might be a bit more sensitive toward female employees.

Another associate told Chen the real focus should be on the wives, not the daughters. "[Male partners] whose wives work [outside the home] make better supervisors than men whose wives don't," she says.

Personally, I've had male boss's with kids, without kids and I had a male boss with four daughters. I'm not convinced the daughter thing made a difference. But I do think the most fair and understanding male bosses are those whose wives work in demanding jobs.  

Readers, do you find that male bosses with daughters treat women more equitably? What's your experience?

September 23, 2010

Why women are asking for pre-nups

We've come a long way, baby. Women are finally at a point in time when they have some assets to protect and some income to brag about.  

A news release issued today says an overwhelming 73% of divorce attorneys cited an increase in prenuptial agreements during the past five years in a recent poll of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyer (AAML) members.  In addition, 52% have noted an increase in women initiating the requests.

That comes on the heels of this announcement from the BLS: The earnings gap between men and women has shrunk to a record low, partly because many women are prospering in the new economy and partly because men have been hit hard by the recession. Men are losing their jobs at a faster rate than women in the recession. They are staying unemployed for long periods of time and they're taking jobs that pay less than their previous salaries. I think that's been a wake up call for women.We finally realize that we increasingly are becoming the breadwinners. 

Is that what's driving this new interest from women in pre-nups. You bet it is. Pre-nups have long been a controversial topic as women debated whether or not to sign them. But now it's reversed. We are working hard for the bacon. We finally realize we want to hold on to it. The big question is: how will men react?



April 19, 2010

A horrifying look at the wage gap in Florida

Not long ago, employment attorney Richard Tuschman of EpsteinBeckerGreen came to visit me at The Miami Herald building. He wanted to enlighten me about the wage gap between what men and women earn. He insisted it isn't as bad as the numbers indicate because women tend to take jobs in lower paying professions, which is why as a group, they earn less than men.

That may be true. However, the National Partnership for Women & Families issued a new report today with some pretty horrifying numbers.

The report, broken down state by state, says that without the gender-based wage gap, Florida’s women and their families could afford food for another 1.4 years, mortgage and utility payments for five more months, or family health insurance premiums for 1.8 more years.  That’s because full-time employed women in the state are paid $32,506 per year, compared to $40,672 for men. 


The report was issued in conjunction with Equal Pay Day which is April 20 this year.  It is designed to shine a spotlight on the fact that women must work for nearly four extra months in 2010 for wages equal to what men were paid in 2009 alone.


National Partnership President Debra L. Ness is urging the Senate to use this report's findings as the catalyst to push through the The Paycheck Fairness Act. She believes the Act would make it harder for employers to justify wage discrimination; prohibit retaliation against workers who ask about employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages; authorize the government to collect wage data so civil rights enforcement agencies can target their resources; and offer employers technical assistance to help them analyze their pay data and make sure they are not discriminating.  


I do believe Tuschman's argument carries weight. I do think women tend to choose professions that pay less. But  why can't those professions pay more? I also believe there are many workplaces where men are paid more for doing the same job as women and frankly, those women may even be doing the job better. In some cases, it may be an oversight by the employer. Let's make it okay for companies to get help analyzing their pay data. Let's make it against the law to discriminate based on gender.


What do we have to lose by paying women equal salaries? If entire households benefit, it looks like all of us have a lot to gain.