Dan Goldstein, executive VP and chief legal and compliance officer at Pitney Bowes, recently sat down with the Legal Executive Institute to discuss how he drives women’s advancement in the legal industry in his daily leadership role and through his engagement with outside counsel. Indeed, Goldstein and more broadly Pitney Bowes take their commitment to gender diversity seriously. Goldstein’s leadership team is made up of 50% women and Pitney Bowes is #63 on the Forbes list of Best Employers for Women. In the interview, Goldstein also shares his thoughts on responding to situations when colleagues reference #MeToo in moments of anxiety about cross-gender interaction in the workplace.
Legal Executive Institute: What is your personal connection to your role as a male champion for women’s advancement? And, what was the experience or moment when you realized that access to opportunity is different for men and women?
Dan Goldstein: My personal connection to becoming a champion for women started from one of my core beliefs that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and my observation that different races, ethnic groups, or women are not always treated that way. Also, I have had the privilege in my career to work with and report to many women. When I worked at a law firm, I worked for some partners who were women. When I went to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the director of our office was a woman. The general counsels form whom I have worked at Pitney Bowes before I got the job as general counsel were women, and I did not think of it as any different than working for men.
I observed that access to opportunity between the genders was not equal when I became a young lawyer. At the time, the population of women in the law was starting to increase to a point where women were no longer outnumbered in the profession. Now, women are the majority in law schools; and yet, the numbers are not reflected at senior levels within the industry. This led me to focus on why there was a dissonance between the number of lawyers who are women and the lack of representation at senior positions.
What does being a male champion of women or a male ally look like for you in terms of your day-to-day life at work?
It comes up in a few different ways around coaching, role modeling, and how I interact with outside law firms. For context, about half of my senior leadership team are women. Although I am leery of any stereotypes — including those that say women are more reluctant to speak up or seem outwardly ambitious — I try to support the women on my team in both areas.
I view part of my role as being a coach and mentor to my team. I remind the women on my team of how talented they are, how much credibility they already have, and that it is important for them to speak up in meetings, not just in one-on-one interactions. I try to give them an extra boost of confidence in these situations and sometimes even challenge them to speak up and be visible. I also support them in wanting to strive to advance and encourage them to discuss their ambitions with me. I frankly do not find that much of a distinction between how men and women develop as leaders, but I do think that having that extra support from me helps them develop into better leaders.
The second way I am a champion of women on a day-to-day basis is role modelling in two ways: i) working with my colleagues and senior management who see how much of my senior team is female and how effective we are as a legal department; and ii) walking my talk in the context of work-life integration. By the latter I mean, if there can be a day where from 2 pm to 4 pm, and someone from my team has something for a child and they need to leave the office and finish their work at night, I totally support it and view it as routine. I have complete trust in my team because they are extraordinarily good. Supporting people with work flexibility makes them more efficient and more motivated. This is important for men and women, but the reality of the world is often many of the women feel more pressure about that, so I try to be as supportive as I can.
Finally, my role in hiring outside counsel is the final way I support women’s advancement within the legal industry. In our RFPs we are explicit that we expect diverse teams. We have had multiple transactions and litigations where woman were the lead partners or the lead senior associate. These expectations are meant to communicate “with my wallet” the importance of the issue.
How do you influence other male peers to become gender champions or male allies?
I think men seeing the success of a diverse team is more powerful than any conversation. Men occasionally ask, “How is it you have a group that has gender balance, and why does it work?” I answer that when you focus on creating an inclusive environment you will see the best talent thrive regardless of individual backgrounds.
The way that I demonstrate the “how” of building an inclusive environment is in two ways:
- If I am in a meeting with one of my deputy general counsels who are women or in other leadership roles, I try to shut up and let them do the talking so that they are the face rather than me. The key is to let the other people do the talking so other senior people can see how dynamic, effective, and strong the women in my group are as leaders.
- The other way of demonstrating an inclusive environment is in dealing with outside counsel. I make a point of asking questions to everyone in the room from the law firm. I want to gauge that the law firm team leader really is prepared to give their colleagues leadership roles on a transaction or a litigation we are working on. In the one or two cases, when I have observed discomfort from the most senior person from the law firm, I did not hire those firms because I could see that they were not really serious about giving people the opportunity to shine.
Since the #MeToo movement really gained momentum in mid-2017, have you seen it impacting, either positively or negatively, how you interact or how your peers interact in the workplace?
For me personally, it has not changed anything in how I interact with others. More broadly, because I am responsible for the compliance and ethics programs at Pitney Bowes, I have been asked more frequently about that. To be sure, we do not tolerate that type behavior and our approach in dealing with these situations is as strong as it should be.
I have heard from some people periodically nervously joking about how in the “#MeToo era” they are not quite sure how to handle a work situation involving a male and female. I do not have a lot of patience for that because it sounds a little bit like a cop-out from just dealing with people appropriately as people.
Dan Goldstein will be participating in a panel to discuss male allies, sponsored by the Legal Executive Institute’s Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law initiative on December 5 in New York City.
You can register for that event here.