It’s one thing to bring more women into the legal profession. It’s quite another to give them the opportunities they need to succeed in an intensely competitive marketplace.
That’s what we set out to do when we launched the Manatt Women’s Initiative in 2007. We saw then that there were compelling business reasons to move our women up the career ladder as quickly as their talents would allow. Since then, much has been accomplished, yet there is plenty left to do.
From mentoring to coaching, from practice tips to sponsored events with clients, professional development is year-round at Manatt. Each office conducts a wide variety of programs aimed at helping women overcome the obstacles—both professional and personal—that have too often held them back. In addition, we schedule all manner of social activities to encourage less formal—but no less important—mentoring and co-worker relationships. All these programs are specifically geared towards creating and nurturing business and career advancement opportunities for our women professionals.
Every year we hold the Women’s Initiative Summit, bringing attorneys together with clients—all women—to address the cultural, political, and personal challenges women face in the business world. Speakers have included nationally-known business coaches, best-selling authors, and C-suite executives.
It is now routine for Manatt women to make partner while working flex-time. Full- or part-time status is not, in fact, considered in advancement decisions. While the flex-time partner track is available to both men and women, it is naturally appealing to women with young children. Many of those same women also take advantage of our backup childcare program—just one component of a benefits package available to all firm employees that is unusually family-friendly.
Our efforts to foster gender equality in the profession are paying off. We were most recently one of only six firms nationwide to earn an A+ grade by Above The Law in its 2016 Gender Diversity Index, an inaugural report that aims to accurately compare firms’ commitment to gender diversity by the numbers. For a decade, we’ve been named by Working Mother magazine as a top 50 law firm for women in the country. The Women in Law Empowerment Forum has also continued to recognize our efforts by presenting us with its Gold Standard Certification for seven straight years.
We are, statistically speaking, doing better than most other law firms when it comes to women’s advancement. Fifty-six percent of our associates and 20 percent of our equity partners are women, compared with national figures of 44 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
We know this is not good enough. As with all diversity efforts, any progress made simply underscores the need for more progress. There are many barriers still to overcome in the recruitment, development, and retention of women attorneys—both in the legal industry and within our own firm. As long as these barriers remain, we will continue all efforts to overcome them.