Gaveling the Glass Ceiling: Cultivating Allies to Help Overcome Career Hurdles

Topics: Corporate Legal, Diversity, Gaveling the Glass Ceiling, Talent Development, Thomson Reuters, Women’s Leadership Blog Posts

civil justice

As the November issue of Gaveling the Glass Ceiling is going to press, I have been thinking about the idea of career allies and how all people — especially those who face hurdles to advancement in their careers — need them.

In the legal industry, allies are those who speak up for women or attorneys of color and try to help them overcome those hurdles. They may not focus on one particular individual — that’s more the role of a mentor or sponsor — but they will consistently and vocally oppose practices, rituals or processes within a legal organization that may be exclusionary or isolating, even if that is not the intent of those practices.

For example, at a recent roundtable dinner in Atlanta hosted by Thomson Reuters’ Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) initiative, participants discussed the phenomenon of the male-dominated office and how the very camaraderie between the men in the office can exclude women and even men of diverse backgrounds. Participants also noted how difficult it was to make some men understand that their behavior, while not ill-intended, was nevertheless exclusionary to the women at the firm.

The most important thing that women and diverse attorneys need to know as they face barriers to advancement in their careers is that they are not alone, and they are not without allies.

This made me recognize and be thankful for the existence of allies, and especially male allies, who can call out this behavior and urge other professionals in the office that such patterns of activity often leave other professionals in the firm feeling isolated or left out of the team-bonding, togetherness, and camaraderie that often leads to more concrete career benefits.

That’s why I was so pleased that the TWLL initiative has focused on career allies and shined a strong light on the contributions made by these allies to leveling the playing field for all lawyers. For example, we also featured an insightful interview with Dan Goldstein, executive vp and chief legal and compliance officer at Pitney Bowes.

Goldstein’s leadership team is made up of 50% women and Pitney Bowes is #63 on the Forbes list of Best Employers for Women. Clearly, Goldstein and Pitney Bowes take their commitment to gender diversity seriously. In the interview, Goldstein also shares his thoughts on responding to situations when male colleagues reference #MeToo in moments of anxiety about cross-gender interaction in the workplace.

As part of TWLL’s ongoing coverage of this important topic, we also spoke to Jennifer Peterson, a partner at League of Allies, a professional services firm that “in-powers gender equity” with organizations that want to be on the leading edge of equality and inclusion.

Peterson herself has been a strong ally to us in this effort, participating in the first and second roundtables for the Real World Implications of #MeToo for the Legal Ecosystem series, hosted by Thomson Reuters and Her Justice.

All this inspiring and insightful talk from such strong legal professionals and advocates for women’s advancement in the legal industry reminds me that the most important thing that women and diverse attorneys need to know as they face barriers to advancement in their careers is that they are not alone, and they are not without allies.

Find those in your firm or law department that vocally advocate for a more equitable, more inclusive and more diverse workplace. They are your allies.

Breaking news! As this issue of Gaveling the Glass Ceiling was going to press, we learned that TWLL was awarded the Gold Steve® Winner as the “Website or Blog of the Year” category for its dedicated sections on the Legal Executive Institute and Legal Insights UK & Ireland sites!

The honor came at the 15th Annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business awards ceremony on November 16. The Stevie® is given to female entrepreneurs, executives, employees, and the organizations they run in recognition of business achievement. (You can see a list of the winners here.)

We are greatly humbled and proud to be given this prestigious award, and I praise all the members of the TWLL team within Thomson Reuters’ Legal Executive Institute for all their dedication and hard work that made this achievement possible.