Thursday, May 22, 2014

To the Success of Women Neutrals

I am honored to have attended the reception for the Top Women Lawyers last week (and to have been photographed by the L.A. Daily Journal with honorees, Susan E. Hollander and Diane M. Doolittle in the LADJ 5/16/14).  I also attended the California Women Lawyers 2014 Conference last week, "celebrating 40 years of Advancement".  Although I was struck by the awesome accomplishments of my cohort of women professionals at both events, I was equally troubled by the very current and persistent challenges still facing younger women as they enter the legal profession, and those in the middle of their career, still trying to juggle the demands of practice, family and self.For example, according to keynote speaker, Professor Joan C. Williams, who is Distinguished Professor of Law at Hastings and author of 8 books, most recently, "What Works for Women at Work" (co-written by her daughter, journalist, Rachel Dempsey), 40 years ago, only 15.9% of partners in major American law firms were female.  In 2013, that figure was only 16%. Where are all of the women lawyers hanging their shingles then?
In a fascinating study conducted in 2013 and presented by Patricia Gillette of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, LLP on "Rainmakers", the Lawyer Metrics group found that the top personality traits and behaviors of rainmakers of both genders were "engagement" (a desire to be highly engaged and place a high priority on work-related activities) and "dominance" (a tendency to exercise power and influence over others).  Part of me was left wondering whether these traits are primarily feminine or masculine and whether, though rainmakers of both genders had similar traits, there were in fact fewer women who naturally had an instinct towards "dominance", for example.
Finally, I attended an intriguing presentation by Kimberly Papillon on Implicit biases in decision-making, which called into play all kinds of brain tricks which we are nearly powerless to overcome as human animals.  For example, it is nearly impossible to resist reading the word "BLUE" when the print is in the color Yellow and asked to identify the color, not the word.
In what ways do you consider your gender affecting your practice--positively or negatively?  What strategies can women adopt to overcome some of these inherit biases or should we just "let it be"?  In what ways may the gender of your neutral affect both process and outcome of your mediation hearings?