Talk to the women partners in the Allen Matkins real estate and litigation practices and they all agree on two things: That even in 2010, the vast majority of decision-makers are men and that women who want to get ahead need to help one another. So, to that end, up and down the state where Allen Matkins has offices, women attorneys have been actively developing programs to help one another, their clients, and the community.
This series of entries looks at the many creative ways the Allen Matkins Women’s program supports these efforts. It’s become a vibrant part of the firm’s diversity initiative and also an important source of attracting business, retaining talented attorneys and drawing new talent to the firm. Because each program is focused on the specific needs and goals of the women involved, they all have a unique twist. Some are purely business oriented while others combine networking with social activities or community service.
In this post, we take a look at what some of the women partners are doing to help their younger colleagues.
Mentoring Young Women
Many of today’s women partners came up the ranks the hard way; the jobs and promotions they got were hard won. In today’s complex society, it’s still challenging, but in a different way. They opportunities may now be there, but these women are told they can have it all and do it all—and the reality is very different.
Today’s women partners recognize this dilemma, and those who may not have had much guidance when they were just starting on their career paths are making a point of reaching out to younger women—both those in the firm and those even younger. Some do it through formal programs. Others just have a philosophy of taking an interest in their junior colleagues.
Susan Graham, a partner in the Orange County office who specializes in Finance & Capital Markets/Real Estate, works with young women on her own, mentoring a high school juniors every year at Newport Harbor High School. The girls shadow her at work and they get together to talk about what they’re doing—from the tests they have to take to applying for college. “The whole idea is to give them another adult they can talk to,” says Graham. “It could be career advice or just being another sounding board.”
Kristine Floyd has developed a reputation for reaching out to her younger colleagues. Floyd is a partner in the Orange County office, in the litigation department. Yes, she’s involved in the Women’s Leadership Roundtable and is also on the firm’s Diversity Committee, but she also makes a point of going out with the women associates in her department, sometimes for what might be considered “fluffy” conversations about clothes or kids, but also for serious lunches to talk about issues.
“I had no female mentor. The women I did see in litigation had to be just as tough and gruff as the men,” she recalls. “They were fighting so hard to get where they were that they weren’t looking out for the ones below them. I want it to be different. I unofficially mentor attorneys who aren’t in my department. I try to be a safe haven.”
Emily Murray, an environmental litigator in her thirties, is senior counsel in the L.A. office. She’s now part of the Association of Women in Water, Energy and Environment, a new organization in which Allen Matkins is a founding circle member. Sonia Ransom, a partner in San Francisco, is also a member, as are other women partners in the firm. Murray, who is on the group’s Southern California Leadership Committee, doesn’t think these organizations are necessary because there aren’t opportunities open to women, but because, “I think women are uniquely situated to help other women.
“These organizations are appealing to me because of the willingness of the women to help each other out in a way I don’t see in some of my co-ed groups.”
Pam Andes, a partner in Orange County in Land Use, Environmental & Natural Resources, sees a need for these kinds of networking opportunities for the younger women she works with, but there’s also the compelling fact that for the partners, business development has to come first. “The junior people need this. They’re going to need to grow business in the near term. We realize that but we need to reach people who are at an executive level who can direct work to us. But ultimately it’s going to be important for them to get involved.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” she notes, “and it’s still—especially in real estate—male dominated. There’s still a lot of old-boy networking. So all the women need to realize that they need to be networking. Yes, some women don’t like to help other women, but I think we really need to help one another.”