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JD Talks International Womens Day

JONES DAY TALKS®: Success Stories — Jones Day’s Women’s Initiatives

This special edition of Jones Day Talks celebrates the Firm’s initiatives that showcase the accomplishments of our women partners and associates, and that provide professional development opportunities to the next generation of lawyers both inside and outside the Firm. 

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Dave Dalton:

International Women's Day is celebrated every year in March. Jones Day marks the event with special programming across the firm and with a focus on some of the initiatives that promote and showcase the accomplishments of our talented women lawyers. We have a Jones Day panel, our largest ever in fact, here to talk about it. I'm Dave Dalton. You're listening to JONES DAY TALKS®.

Dave Dalton:

We're well into our third year of Jones Day podcasts, but this I think is the most impressive panel we've ever assembled. Jones Day partners, Yvette McGee Brown, Harriet Territt, Barbara Harding, Meredith Wilkes, Miguel Eaton, and Greg Shumaker are all here. You can check out their bios at jonesday.com, but trust me, this is an impressive group. Thank you all for being here today.

Yvette McGee Brown:

Thank you, Dave.

Meredith Wilkes:

Good to be here.

Dave Dalton:

Let's start with Yvette. Yvette, every year International Women's Day is observed on March the eighth. Can you give us some history or context for our listeners that may not be familiar?

Yvette McGee Brown:

Surprisingly, International Women's Day has been around, at least in Europe, since the beginning of the 20th century, around 1911. But its adoption by the United Nations in 1975 was meant to press for greater equality to what has now become a reflection on progress that women have made and progress yet to be made. It's about bringing and discussing equality, celebrating women who have made extraordinary strides in their careers, and in our countries, and really recognizing that we still have so many young girls that need to see women succeeding, so that they can imagine what the future will be like for them.

Dave Dalton:

Sure. So it's both acknowledging, I guess, the social, and economic, and cultural, and political advancements of women, but also bring awareness that maybe there's a lot more to be done, especially where, as you say, young women and girls are concerned. Harriet, talk about what's happening at the firm level and at various Jones Day offices in terms of observing International Women's Day.

Harriet Territt:

I think from the firm perspective, when we celebrate International Women's Day, for the last couple of years, we've had a focus particularly on the women leaders of the firm. And that's something you'll see again this year. I think one of the really exciting things for Barbara, Kim, and myself is when we update those materials, and you have so many more people to add to them because more and more women are taking on roles, responsibilities, and leadership within the firm. But that's not the only thing that we do. I mean, a huge amount of the efforts that take place within the firm for gender equality generally are at an office and a practice group level. And you'll certainly see that reflected on International Women's Day. A number of officers are doing lunches either for their women's groups or actually, in the case of London, we're doing something for the whole office. And that's something you'll see across the Jones Day network.

Harriet Territt:

I think one of the interesting things about this year 2020 is quite an interesting anniversary for us. It's the 50th anniversary of Jones Day appointing its first woman partner. And that's a theme you will see picked up, not just on International Women's Day, but actually throughout the year. And I think the final thing that I would say, and this is a trend we've seen for the last couple of years but it's really accelerated this year, is actually making sure that the lawyers of the firm are out there supporting our clients who are marking International Women's Day as well. So we have a huge number of clients who have events who ask Jones Day partners to attend, lawyers to come and speak. And I should emphasize, it's not just our women lawyers who are involved in that. There are a huge number of our male lawyers who are also going out there and making sure those clients are supported and know that we're engaged with these issues. So it's going to be a busy week for everyone. I can say that much.

Dave Dalton:

Sure. And I was going to ask what kind of feedback or reaction you're getting, both within the firm and from clients, but sounds like it's positive based on what you've got planned, and what kind of turnout you're expecting. I think.

Harriet Territt:

Yeah. I think the feedback is always incredibly positive. We're always looking for ways to make sure that we are current in what we're looking at and engaging with clients. We know it's a really important business issue for them and to make sure that they understand what Jones Day is doing, how we're engaging with these issues, and how we can support them.

Dave Dalton:

Terrific. Terrific. Let's go back to Yvette for a second. Yvette this year's theme for International Women's Day is "each for equal." What exactly does that mean?

Yvette McGee Brown:

The each for equal theme emphasizes the equality issue, but it's not just about a women's issue. It's about gender equality, which is essential for our businesses, our economies and our communities. It really is an opportunity for everyone to say that this world would be better if we had gender equality. We'd be healthier, wealthier, more harmonious. So really what's not great about that?

Dave Dalton:

Really kind of a positive theme or message, I think.

Yvette McGee Brown:

Absolutely. And applies across everything we do, right? Whether it's the political environment, the business environment, our communities, it really is important that women, who are 50% of the population, have a seat at the table.

Miguel Eaton:

This is Miguel, I was just going to tell you that I think part of what you see in the change too, is you'll see a young male associate who comes into the firm in the last five or 10 years. It's not at all unusual for him to work with women partners. And in fact, have a woman partner be the senior lawyer on a case. And I think that's just a real paradigm shift for people who entered the practice maybe 20, 30 years ago.

Barbara Harding:

And David...

Yvette McGee Brown:

Absolutely. That's a great point.

Dave Dalton:

Sure.

Barbara Harding:

One other area. This is Barbara. I think another major change that I've witnessed, just in my own career, is the number of women clients that we now have. So all of our lawyers, both senior junior are working with senior female leaders at our client's offices. And I think that's been a major shift and a really exciting development.

Dave Dalton:

Absolutely. A young lawyer coming into the profession now won't know any different, right. That seems normal. And that's a good thing. That's a good thing. Let's stay with Barbara for a second. Barbara, Jones Day has a very well-established and active women's affinity group. And that's just not for International Women's Day. There are events and programs and calls all year long. Talk a bit about that group and what it does and maybe the plans for 2020.

Barbara Harding:

Sure. David, I love talking about our women's group. The women's affinity group at Jones Day supports the retention, development, and progression of our women lawyers and leaders. We have many, many goals, but our primary goal is to help women at Jones Day succeed and advance at the firm. Not every office has its own separate women's group, but we do have an active and engaged community of women lawyers across the firm. And we participate in events, programming, and calls where we do a lot of planning. This past year, we had a really exciting event where we celebrated the 100 year anniversary of legislation granting US women the right to vote on the same night as the UK was celebrating the hundred year anniversary of women being able to enter the legal profession with a major joint broadcast across all Jones Day offices. It was really a fun and exciting evening.

Barbara Harding:

A number of our US, European, and Asian offices have all kinds of events planned this coming year. A lot of them in the more recent years are involving our clients, as we've been talking about earlier, where we're also looking at serving the needs of our communities. So that's been one of the more recent developments that I think has allowed us to bring together our clients, both female and male, in events kind of promoting female leadership. And I guess one other event, and I probably should let Harriet talk about this, but our London office just hosted a really extraordinary evening where they brought together our private equity clients together with potential investment opportunities with a focus on female entrepreneurship. And really, I think it was quite an extraordinary evening and we got a lot of positive feedback from our clients that attended. So we're looking forward to hosting a number of programming events this year where we educate our lawyers, where we bring them together with our clients, and promote our female attorneys, and help them advance in their careers.

Dave Dalton:

Well, it's interesting that you mentioned the private equity event in London. Might be a good time to bring in Meredith Wilkes. Women in IP has been a very active group here at Jones Day for the last several years and a successful group with programming and regular podcasts and so forth. Meredith, do you want to talk a bit about recent developments with Women in IP, what you're planning and how that group is doing?

Meredith Wilkes:

Absolutely David. And thanks for having me. We have such a great story to tell and what started as a lunch at a partner's meeting in 2016, has really grown into a tremendous cross-office effort that's supported by the entirety of the IP practice. And we're able to involve folks from all the different aspects of IP law, whether it's patent, trademark trade secret, transactional, litigation. When we have a great committee of people really devoted to the Women in IP initiative. And the mission really is to address the under representation of women in intellectual property. And we do it through mentoring, we do it through networking, and we do it through a really dynamic CLE speaker series. And in keeping with past years, we've got four really great programs in store for 2020, a brand update in Atlanta, a leadership program in Cleveland in June, a women in the courtroom feature in Minneapolis in August, and we'll round out the year in Silicon Valley doing a licensing and a tech transactional program. We also have some plans in the works to engage and partner with some law schools and staying abreast of current issues and keeping clients abreast of current issues. We'll again, continue to do our podcast series this year. So we have a lot to really look forward to.

Dave Dalton:

And the feedback has been unanimously good, right? From clients and so forth people within the firm. The group's been very successful and very well-received. True?

Meredith Wilkes:

We're very blessed that we've gotten really great feedback from our clients, from members of the community. And of course, within the law firm. Yes. Absolutely.

Yvette McGee Brown:

And David, this is Yvette. If I could just jump in, I think this is an example of what we're seeing with the generation of lawyers today, because what Meredith started with this women in IP, it was really saying, "Look, we can get more women interested in intellectual property and all of the many components of that by just exposing our young lawyers to it." Because when you come into a law firm, you may not see yourself as an IP lawyer. And instead of Meredith and the other women in the IP practice just going about their work, they said, "How do we bring more women into this part of the profession? Show them what being an IP lawyer is all about. Partner with our clients about how exciting a career this can be for them, so that we have greater numbers of women." And that really is how you change the future.

Dave Dalton:

Absolutely. And I love the way Meredith tells a story. This kind of happened organically, didn't it Meredith? You said you guys were at a conference or something, a few of you were sitting around and suddenly there were 30 people at the table and you're like, "We got to do this on a regular basis." It was sort of just a very happy accident that turned into a great initiative, correct?

Meredith Wilkes:

That's exactly what happened and echoes that sentiment 100%. It started out a lunch at the partners meeting and the intention was to get the women partners together at the partners meeting and have lunch, the women IP partners together. And as the group started coming together and we had to keep adding tables and adding tables and adding tables to our lunch, I looked around and said, "This is such an amazing group of women. We have such a great story to tell, and we need to start telling it." And that's how it started.

Dave Dalton:

Probably a lot of potential there still for other parts of the firm. Who knows where this all takes us. All right...

Barbara Harding:

David?

Dave Dalton:

Yes, please.

Barbara Harding:

One other example, I think... Well, actually two examples I think are... I just want to make sure that our colleagues out there know about. There's a women in white collar initiative as well, and they've put together the bios of all of the amazing women we have across the firm that are former prosecutors and involved in law enforcement. And so that's another effort that I think really was inspired by Meredith and her colleagues efforts. And then another area where we've seen just enormous opportunity is in corporate governance. We're running into, and we have number of clients who are young women in their offices, in their firms, and they are in line for succession to major leadership positions with the inside counsel groups at their companies. But they don't necessarily have all of the kind of corporate governance or financial experience that they need. So one thing that we started to do is we are pairing up our attorneys at Jones Day who have corporate governance or finance experience and just working one-on-one with some of our clients at companies in order to help these women in their companies succeed and advance to leadership positions at their shops.

Dave Dalton:

Barbara, how is that connection made? Do you reach out to the client company? Do they find you? Or how do you pair people up?

Barbara Harding:

Again, it starts organically. You see a need with a client. The first time it happened, we actually were approached by a general counsel who's looking for succession. He's planning his succession. And he sees this woman in his office, in his shop, that he wants to be in a position to compete for his leadership role. And he asked us, "Can we do anything to help prepare her?" So we met with her, we looked at her background, her experiences, and we asked her where she felt like she needed additional training and experience. And then we looked around the firm across the world really and found the right people to speak with her. And we've had a series of meetings with her that I think have really helped her develop as a leader within the council's office at her company.

Dave Dalton:

Great story.

Harriet Territt:

I'm sorry, Dave. This is Harriet. Just my last comment on this. I think that that is a theme that we see across all of the different efforts in the women's group. People looking at what is the right thing to do in their offices and their practices to sort of achieve the goals. And the one point I did just want to say is those efforts rely on support from a huge number of other people, particularly the lawyers who are leading on it, but also partners in charge, practice group leaders who give a huge amount of support, both in terms of time, and budget, and guidance about how to engage, not just with clients, but also on a community basis as well. So I did just want to give a shout out to all those people, including all of the office functions and the support functions who help make everything that everyone is trying to do happen.

Dave Dalton:

Sure. We need to hear more of those success stories. That's all very positive and very forward-thinking. In fact, that segues nicely into what I wanted to talk about next. I'm going to direct this to Greg and Miguel thinking big picture for a second. The profession, the legal profession, comes under fire occasionally, and it's criticized for maybe its inability to advance women to the profession. Is that always fair? It seems like we have made progress in this area, both as an industry and certainly at Jones Day. How do you react to the perception out there that women aren't moving along quickly enough? Is that true? Could we do more? What's your feeling about the big picture, I guess? Let's go to Miguel first.

Miguel Eaton:

I think a lot of that criticism stems from the numbers. If you look at sort of percentage of women partners at big law firms, that number hasn't really gone up in a long time and it's something that needs to be addressed. I think it's also just a leadership issue. It's a leadership challenge for law firm leaders. And there's a lot of reasons people leave law firms, both men and women. But I think one of the real leadership challenges is to make sure, whether it's through flexible work schedules or whatever, that we want to make sure the reason someone leaves is not that they felt like they couldn't juggle family and work or whatever. We want to make sure that they feel like they can do it. And the support is there. And if at the end of the day, they make the decision to leave for whatever reason, to go in-house, to stay home with their family, to start a new business venture at all, it shouldn't be they left because they didn't feel supported.

Dave Dalton:

Sure. Greg, anything you'd add?

Greg Shumaker:

Yeah, I would just say I've had the benefit of being with the firm for nearly 35 years and on this issue of whether talented women are getting the opportunity to lead matters and make an impact on this firm. I have to say that that is one of the firm's most impressive traits. And it's been that way since I've first started with the firm. In essence, on the issue of providing opportunity for women lawyers, the firm not only talks the talk, it walks the walk. And I look at two of the most challenging, most important representations that the firm has taken on in the last 20 years. One is the Chrysler bankruptcy back in 2009. It was a cutting edge bankruptcy that the entire world, frankly, was looking to see whether the American government could figure out a way to get a global automotive company through bankruptcy quickly.

Greg Shumaker:

And that effort, which involved over 70 lawyers and was, again, at a very critical time at the beginning of the Great Recession was a representation that was led by Corinne Ball, who was one of the preeminent and still is one of the preeminent, bankruptcy practitioners in the world. And I can tell you when we were in that incredibly crowded courtroom back in April, May of 2009, when literally lawyers were passing out in the back of the courtroom because it was standing room only, and you couldn't move because of the number of lawyers in the room, the lead lawyer at the front table for the debtor, was a woman and it was a Jones Day partner. And I can't tell you the amount of pride that I had to be at that table with her and to see her lead that huge company through bankruptcy in a period of 42 days. It had been completely unheard of.

Dave Dalton:

Sure.

Greg Shumaker:

And similarly, a few years later, when the firm took the city of Detroit into the largest municipal bankruptcy in the country's history at that time, the, and still to this day again, the leader of the bankruptcy effort was a woman. It was Heather Lennox in our Cleveland office. And I can't tell you what pride swells within one, when you're a part of an organization that's not looking for which is the most senior lawyer, they're looking for the right lawyer for the job. And the right lawyer, sometimes it's a woman, sometimes it's a man, but it's going to put forward the right one. And in those two huge engagements, the firm was so benefited to have such talented women partners. And it's just been a source of pride for me for many, many years.

Dave Dalton:

Sure, sure. And it sent a very clear message. You've talked about having the right lawyer, the best lawyer, for the client in any situation, they happen to be two of our very best lawyers, who happened to be women. That was a wonderful thing for the industry, for the profession, and for the world to see frankly. And those were front page stories, as we all know. Going back to Harriet, let's talk about the women's affinity group just a little bit more. What do you think is most interesting or exciting about being part of that group?

Harriet Territt:

Well, I think everyone may have their own sort of view on that. I think for me the most exciting thing is the sort of the energy that the group has. We've talked a little bit about plans for 2020 and we could have a half an hour podcast just on that, but the variety of events, the enthusiasm that people are bringing to working out what's the right thing for their office and their community. The fact that we obviously have a group of senior lawyers involved, but also a group of very active associates, male and female, who are helping to shape the direction of the women's group, help making sure that we're working well with the other affinity groups across Jones Day, because the women's group doesn't exist in a vacuum. There are other affinity groups that have equally valuable goals and we want to make sure we're a part of supporting that. So for me, it's just the energy. I come off all those calls just with 1,000 different ideas, including things like this podcast. So for me, that's the hands down best thing about it.

Dave Dalton:

Terrific. Barbara, Yvette, anything you'd add to Harriet's remarks?

Barbara Harding:

I would say... This is Barbara. The one thing that I would add, and it really echoes what Harriet started to talk about, but the most inspiring part of this group for me is getting to know our young lawyers and our young talent and seeing how extraordinarily capable they are, and how excited they are about being at the firm, about being lawyers and just... They are looking for guidance about how to go about being successful in their life and in their careers. And one of the things we do at the affinity group here in DC is we look on our calendar and we see which of our female colleagues from across the firm are coming to our office this week. Which one of our female leaders is coming into town and we will host, almost monthly or sometimes even weekly, we will host a senior female leader coming from somewhere around the world to let our young lawyers see that there are 1,000 different ways to be a leader in this firm and in practice of law. There are 100 different styles of leadership. And that really is just a huge change from just 10 or 20 years ago, when you might have one person from around a firm that you would bring and introduce your young lawyers to. So we're very excited and look forward to working with all the young women across the firm.

Dave Dalton:

That's the kind of thing that's quietly effective, I think. You've got a leader coming in, woman leader, from somewhere else in the firm and get the younger lawyers, the associates, the younger partners in and hear a story that. That sounds terrific. Barbara, if someone's listening and wants to get more involved in the women's affinity group, how do they do that? Do they contact you directly? What's the best thing to do?

Barbara Harding:

Absolutely. They can contact any of us on the phone here. They can contact their practice leader. They can contact their diversity coordinator. They can contact Harriet, myself, Yvette, Meredith, Greg, Miguel. There are so many people involved in the group, but just reach out, send an email or give us a call, and we will help get you involved.

Dave Dalton:

Terrific. Hey, thank you all for being here today. Thanks for all your good work on behalf of the women's affinity group and celebrating International Women's Day. This has been great. And I've got a hunch we're going to do this again in about one year. So thanks so much for your time today.

Yvette McGee Brown:

Thank you.

Miguel Eaton:

Thanks Dave.

Barbara Harding:

Great speak to you.

Dave Dalton:

Take care, you all.

Dave Dalton:

You can find complete biographies of all our panelists at jonesday.com. Subscribe to JONES DAY TALKS® at Apple Podcasts or wherever else podcasts are available. As always, thanks for listening to JONES DAY TALKS®. I'm Dave Dalton. We'll talk to you next time.

Speaker 9:

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