Fenwick & West managing partner Kate Fritz was featured in an Of Counsel article reporting that while the number of women assuming leadership roles at major law firms has increased, it still remains low. Fenwick is among the firms known for its support of women in leadership positions.
Of Counsel quoted figures from an annual report jointly released in August by Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers that ranked the 50 best law firms for women in 2014. The report concluded that since 2007 when the Best Law Firms for Women initiative began, “The percentage of equity partners who are women among the winning firms has risen to 19 percent from 16 percent, non-equity partners to 29 percent from 22 percent and counsel to 42 percent from 37 percent.” In addition, women remain underrepresented on firms’ internal committees.
The publication noted that West Coast firms such as Fenwick are known for elevating women and minorities to leadership roles. Fritz confirmed that the firm has implemented policies and programs to encourage women lawyers to generate business and rise to top-level positions.
But women at many law firms still face bias, Fritz said. “There’s still a tremendous amount of unconscious bias that we have all grown up with, and we need to be aware of it. Many people still think of a leader as somebody who is tall and has a deep voice, and that cuts out a lot of people who might be potential leaders.”
To counter this bias, women need to modify their approach. “Women have a tendency to think that they have to have done everything before they’re qualified to do something,” Fritz said. Instead, “women need to ask more often to do things. They need to speak up and believe that they can perform well in leadership roles. And, they need encouragement,” she added.