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Lawyers of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome.

 

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Off the Beaten Partner Track: "If Only We All Could Have Gender-Neutral Names "

Posted By Jillian Fairchild, Thursday, March 23, 2017
Updated: Friday, March 24, 2017

If Only We All Could Have Gender-Neutral Names

 

There is an interesting story going viral about a man and a woman who switched names on their email when interacting with clients. This experiment began when Martin Schneider noticed he was having a difficult time interacting with a client. This client was being impossible, rude, dismissive, and ignoring his questions. Schneider could not understand the reason for this treatment until he realized he was signing his email with his female colleague’s name, Nicole Hallberg. Schneider then reintroduced himself and the client’s demeanor immediately changed. He was thanking him for his suggestions, responding promptly, and became the model client. As noted by Schneider, “My technique and advice never changed. The only difference was that I had a man’s name now.”

 

Schneider and Hallberg decided to switch names for a week. He signed on as “Nicole” and she ended her emails with the name “Martin.” At the end of the week, Schneider stated that, “it f---ing sucked,” and he, “was in hell.” Everything he asked or suggested was questioned. Clients he could work with in his sleep were condescending. One even asked if he was single. On the other hand, Hallberg had one of the easiest weeks of her professional life.

 

Schneider realized that Hallberg was taking longer with clients because she had to convince them to respect her. Efficiency was an obsession for their boss, so this was a critical issue in their workplace. When Hallberg and Schneider told their boss what happened, he was dismissive. Their supervisor said there could be, “a thousand reasons why the clients could have reacted differently that way. I could be the work performance . . . you have no way of knowing.” Hallberg wondered, “What did my boss have to gain by refusing to believe that sexism exists?” Perhaps that’s a question for my next blog.

 

Female attorneys will not be surprised by Hallberg’s experience during the email experiment. We often notice that we are treated differently from our male colleagues. There have been many examples mentioned by Lawyers Club bloggers and Above the Law has provided several examples of disparate treatment. We frequently sense we have experiences that our male colleagues do not, but the treatment is so subtle that it is hard to describe and even more difficult to prove.

 

Recently, I was berated and bullied by male opposing counsels during depositions. One such attorney tried to bully me into not stating my objections prior to my client’s responses and would not agree to let my client take a break. In another case, I attempted to ask a wrongful death plaintiff about who she thought was responsible for her husband’s death. Plaintiff’s counsel escorted his client out to berate me about my lack of sensitivity, while telling me to “rein it in!” I wonder if such treatment would occur if I were male. Similar to Hallberg’s supervisor, my male colleagues have been dismissive of my experiences.

 

I would love to hear if anyone else has these types of experiences. Do you also suspect you have experiences that your male colleagues do not encounter? How do you handle these types of situations?

 

Jillian Fairchild is a full-time litigator and full-time mom who spends her work life negotiating with plaintiff attorneys and her home life negotiating with a toddler.  

Tags:  bullying  email  gender discrimination  LCB  Nicole Hallberg  Off the Beaten Partner Track  sexism  stories to solutions  women in the workplace 

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Off the Beaten Partner Track: "It’s Time to Stop Blaming Women for the Gender Pay Gap"

Posted By Jillian Fairchild , Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It’s Time to Stop Blaming Women for the Gender Pay Gap


It is time to stop blaming women for the pay gap. Women have shouldered the bulk of the criticism for the wage gap for years. The results of a new study show that the differences in pay between men and women is actually due to discrimination.

 

In conjunction with the discussion regarding the wage gap between men and women, there have been many reasons given for the differences in pay. In addition to the discussion regarding the biases contributing to the problem, many of these explanations seem to either blame the women themselves or criticize what was deemed to be their natural characteristics.

 

Some of the reasons frequently given for wage inequality include women’s failure to negotiate pay and taking time off to raise children. There have also been some that argue the reason women are paid less is because women tend to choose lower paying jobs. Men, it is thought, choose better paying jobs like science, tech, engineering, and math.  Meanwhile, women become teachers or work for non-profits.

 

One of the other reasons frequently asserted for wage inequality is that women don’t ask for raises. Simply put, women do not get what they deserve because they don’t ask for it. Women are less likely to negotiate for themselves because they are socialized from a young age not to promote their own interests. Also women tend to assume they will be recognized and rewarded for working hard and doing a good job. Unlike men, this theory goes, they haven’t been taught they can ask for more.

 

A recent study debunks this commonly held idea that women are less aggressive negotiators when it comes to pay. A new study shows that women do ask for pay raises just as often as men, but the problem is they are less likely to get them. This study showed that women were 25% less likely than men to get a hike in pay when they asked for it. The researchers noted that they expected the study to show that women were “less pushy” than men, but their findings showed there is discrimination against women.

 

The results of this study show what most women already know - discrimination is a reason for the gender wage gap. Women sense there is discrimination keeping the pay gap in place, but there are entrenched ideas that it is their fault. They are taught that if only they asked for more raises, did not choose family over work, and chose the right careers then they would make more money. However, this study shows that even if women did everything right, there would still be inequality due to discrimination.

 

From now on when we hear someone blaming a woman for getting paid less than a man, then we should speak up. We need to point out there is inherent sexism keeping women from closing the gap that no amount of negotiating can close. We need to stand up for each other until this discrimination no longer exists.

 

This blog was authored by Jillian Fairchild. Jillian is a full-time litigator and full-time mom who spends her spare time trying to keep the princess culture away from her daughter (and failing miserably!).

 

Tags:  Gender Pay Gap  LCB  Off the Beaten Partner Track  wage discrimination  women negotiating salary 

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Is Pay Secrecy the Enemy?

Posted By Anonymous , Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Is Pay Secrecy the Enemy?

 

Equal pay for women has been a hot topic recently. Equal Pay Day is marked annually (recently in April) and marks how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. The U.S. women’s soccer team made news by filing a wage discrimination lawsuit against U.S. soccer (addressed in a wonderful LCB entry by Daphne Delvaux). Because this is an election year, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have raised this issue of wage disparity more often. Ivanka Trump even discussed equal pay for women during her speech at the Republican National Convention. The State of California addressed this issue by passing the Fair Pay Act going into effect on January 1, 2016. This law strengthened existing laws by requiring men and women to be paid equally for “substantially similar” work.

 

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that female attorneys at Farmers Insurance filed a class action lawsuit because they were getting paid significantly less than their male counterparts. One female attorney learned a male co-worker was making $185,000 while she was earning $99,000. This was true even though they had the same position and he earned his law license a year later. After facing some retaliation for complaining, this attorney quit and hired San Francisco attorney Lori Andrus to represent her in a lawsuit. Eventually a class action suit was brought on behalf of 300 Farmer’s attorneys with nearly 200 of them current employees.

 

It was learned the greatest disparity at Farmer’s Insurance occurred at higher pay levels where women were much more likely to be in a lower salary grade. This was true regardless of their bar date. Men were being promoted at higher rates “It’s not that women were being demoted,” Andrus said. “But a man would get groomed and promoted. Basically, there is male favoritism, which is probably unintentional. It’s a vestige of the good old boy network.” This matter has settled for $4,000,000. As part of the settlement, Farmers agreed to some reforms. These included increasing the number of women attorneys in its higher salary grades. The settlement also requires Farmer’s to reform its policies, including increasing the number of women attorneys in its higher salary grades.

 

The situation at Farmer’s is far from a unique one. Law firms, corporate offices, and government agencies across California operate in the same manner. These issues are usually swept under the rug or go undiscovered because of pay secrecy policies. There is also a general understanding that employees should not discuss salary with their colleagues. Those with a higher salary are likely aware of it and are going to be less willing to share the information publicly. Legally, employers cannot prevent their employees from discussing salary information. However, this could lead to additional retaliation (as in the Farmer’s case above) if the wage discrepancy issue is then raised with the employer.

 

Leave your opinion in the comments. I’d love to hear what others have to say. Is full disclosure of salary information the answer to pay discrimination? Should salary information be shared among co-workers? 

Tags:  class action  equal pay  Farmer’s Insurance lawsuit  LCB  off the beaten partner track  pay discrimination  pay secrecy  salary retaliation  U.S. Women's Soccer  wage discrepancy 

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Off the Beaten Partner Track: "Can We Have It All?"

Posted By Jillian Fairchild, Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Can We Have It All?

The question of whether work/life balance is possible is a constant one. Anne-Marie Slaughter famously determined that the answer was “no” in her article titled Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Since the birth of my own daughter, I have been wondering more and more - is it possible to have a full-time career, children/family, and keep your sanity?

 

Women everywhere are fighting to balance work lives with home life. My own struggle has been made more difficult by the fact that I recently joined a very busy litigation defense firm. My hours have gotten longer and I am not always home by the time my daughter is asleep. On those days, my time with her is limited to the hour I see her in the morning before I drop her off at daycare. When I have to go out of town, I am frequently gone before she gets up and do not get home until after she is asleep.

 

This dilemma is not limited to women. I see some of my male colleagues also struggle for balance. My own husband faced similar issues. He is a chef who worked for 10 years before being promoted to executive chef. What he quickly learned is that his new position required working 6-7 days and 70-80 hours a week, all evenings, weekends, and holidays. Once our daughter was born, he felt he was missing everything at home. He eventually refused to work in restaurants and hotels and is now a chef in a corporate office. He works dream hours (6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) and is home in the evenings and weekends to see his family. 

 

Of course, consideration must be given to the fact that the “all” is different for everyone. Ms. Slaughter referred to having children and a high-powered career. Like her, some strive to be at the top of their profession. Others simply strive to pay their bills, but their real goal is to make time for the PTA. My husband decided that his “all” was time at home and his family was more important than the long hours that came with a more prestigious chef position.

 

It seems as though it is important to determine what your “all” is. Every person has to look at their life and determine what is most important to them. Is it spending time with your kids? Having a dream job/career? There are also financial considerations impacting these decisions, including daycare and student loan debt. The “all” is a deeply personal decision that is different for everyone and will likely change over time. 

This blog post was authored by Jillian Fairchild

 

Tags:  Ann-Marie Slaughter  having it all  LCB  off the beaten partner track  work-life balance 

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Off the Beaten Partner Track: "Sit at the Table"

Posted By Jillian Fairchild, Monday, August 15, 2016
Sit at the Table

One of the things that Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to do in her book Lean In is to “sit at the table.” She tells a story about high-ranking women that visited the Facebook offices with an international diplomat. The women had just as much right to engage in the discussion as the men, but they continued to sit off to the side even after Ms. Sandberg offered them a seat at the table. She argues that it is important for women to literally and figuratively sit at the table. 

 

Ms. Sandberg notes that part of the reason that women fail to engage and “sit at the table” is a lack of confidence. Compared to men, women generally underestimate their abilities, predict they will do worse on tests and do not consider themselves as ready for promotions. Several studies show that when men are successful, they attribute this success to their ability and intelligence. When women are successful, they attribute it to luck, someone else’s help, or hard work. Generally, men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. 

 

Confidence can affect promotions and can even be more important than competence in some situations. When asked about this, senior partners at law firms recognize this confidence gap is a problem. Some female associates are extraordinarily competent as attorneys, but do not speak up at client meetings. For this reason, partners have identified this as a reason they are not confident the female associate can handle the client’s account. This confidence gap is hurting women’s ability to get promotions at law firms.

 

This is something that I have struggled with in my practice as well. I have a memory of a client meeting where I sat off to the side with the paralegals and not at the table with the partner. Needless to say, I did not actively participate in that meeting. Should the partner have introduced me to the client as the associate on the file and encouraged me to sit next to him? Yes. But I should have also had enough confidence in my abilities and intelligence to engage in the meeting and sit at the table. Moreover, if I had the courage to sit the table, then the partner would have been more likely to introduce me.

 

During the past couple of years I have found the confidence to speak up. I try to make sure that I contribute verbally to all meetings. I do this not only to share my ideas, which is important. I also try to voice my opinions in order to appear confident in my abilities.

 

Have any of you had experiences where you did not participate at meetings for lack of confidence? Have you found ways to overcome this confidence gap? I would love to hear from you regarding your success stories for overcoming fear of contributing at meetings.

This blog was authored by Jillian Fairchild


Tags:  Confidence Gap  off the beaten partner track  Sheryl Sandberg  Sit at the Table 

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Off the Beaten Partner Track: "Building Confidence Through Posture"

Posted By Jillian Fairchild, Monday, August 1, 2016
Building Confidence Through Posture

Taking control of your body language is not just about posing in a powerful way. It’s about the fact that we pose in a powerless way much more often than we think – and we need to change that.

 

               -Amy Cuddy

 

We can all use a power boost from time to time and attorneys are no different. We all know that when we feel more confident, it shows. We have a spring in our step. We stand up a little taller and laugh a little louder. But what if we can create this feeling just by improving our posture?

 

There is research that shows that expansive posture can affect not only how others perceive us, but also how we feel about ourselves. If you haven’t watched the TED Talk by Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy on youtube.com, it is definitely worth checking out

 

I also recently finished Ms. Cuddy’s book “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges” which expands on this same topic. This book explains how your posture can be used to increase personal power. Nonverbal expressions of power are so hardwired that we instinctively throw our arms up in an open V when we win a race. This is true regardless of cultural background, gender, or whether we have seen anyone else do this. Because we naturally expand our bodies when we feel powerful, do we also naturally feel powerful when we expand our bodies? The answer is yes!

 

Standing in a “Wonder Woman” position or power posing for two minutes can alter our brain chemistry. The altered chemistry causes a hormonal shift that decreases anxiety and improves the ability to deal with stress. This affects the way you do your job and how you interact with other people. This can be especially helpful when you have a big event coming up, such as a job interview or an important deposition/court hearing.

 

The way we bend over to look at our smart phones and our small devices is also affecting our posture and, in turn, our personal power. This is obvious when we think about it, i.e., hunching down to look at a smart phone screen creates an inward stance as opposed to a more powerful expansive stance. This can be overcome by taking a few minutes to set up your work station to elevate your chair just enough so that you won’t be looking downward for extended periods of time. It is also helpful to avoid hunching over small screens for too long. It is important to put the devices away and expand our bodies as often as possible.

 

 

I have been using the power pose and have been trying to improve my own posture. I recently started working at a new firm. The strategy came at a pivotal time in my own life since day to day confidence can be a struggle in a new position. I have found that using a power pose for two minutes in the morning can lessen my anxiety and improve my overall outlook during the day. I am also more cognizant of my posture throughout the day. My brain feels less clouded and I am able to interact with people more effectively. I am now encouraging others to take time out of their day to check their posture and use it to their advantage. I would love to hear from anyone who has tried this to hear how it is going! 

 
This blog post was authored by Jillian Fairchild 

Tags:  Amy Cuddy  confidence  LCB  off the beaten partner track  posture  power pose  Wonder Woman pose 

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Off the Beaten Partner Track

Posted By Jillian Fairchild, Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, July 13, 2016

It’s no secret that there are significantly fewer female partners in law firms than their male counterparts. According to the American Bar Association, women make up approximately 50% of law school enrollment and more than half of the J.D.s that are eventually awarded. When women start out as associates they make up about 44.7% of the attorneys in private practice. However, women only make up 21.5% of the partners and 18% of the equity partners in law firms.

 

Staying on the partner track becomes infinitely more difficult when there aren’t very many role models to look to as examples. This is especially true when you plan on having children. At my last two law firms, there were two women partners and only one of them had children. I have worked at law firms where no one in a management position had children at all. When there are so few women in leadership roles at law firms, it is difficult to picture yourself successfully rising to that level. When I started at my current firm, I made sure that there were several women at the firm in general and women in partnership roles.

 

I have also encountered circumstances where some women associates take a backseat after having children. When I asked why this was the case, I was told that I could have this too if I wanted to make less money and go on the “mommy track”. Just referring to this choice as the “mommy track” was offensive to me. These women associates are frequently putting in the same time and effort. This is especially true when their cases have out-of-town appearances and pending trial dates.

 

Women should not have to decide between the “mommy track” and the partnership track. Men also have children, but no one ever asks them if they want to go on the “daddy track”. It is expected that if men have children that they will continue along the partner track after the baby is born. Some measure of flexibility in work hours would also be helpful. We are lucky enough to work in a profession in which work can be done after hours and from home. Women (and all) attorneys should be able to take advantage of this.

 

This would be very clear if there were more women in positions of authority at law firms. The confidence of women in their ability to reach that level would grow. Women attorneys would have someone to look toward as an example. Overall, and perhaps most importantly, there would be more confidence in the legal community that women can succeed and thrive in leadership positions

This blog post was authored by Jillian Fairchild

Tags:  LCB  motherhood  off the beaten partner track  partner track  partners  partnership  partnership diversity  women dropping out 

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3/1/2019
19th Annual COC Spring Read-In

3/8/2019
International Women's Day Luncheon

5/9/2019
Save the Date! LC Annual Dinner

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