Women in Local Law and Business

The Post-Gazette runs this big story today on what wonderful things Pittsburgh law firms are doing to make women lawyers happier and more productive billable hour producers, and the paper uses Reed Smith -- Reed Smith! -- as its lead example. This is the same Reed Smith law firm that is notorious for having fired Denise Howell, the woman and lawyer whose Bag & Baggage blog was in on the ground floor of the blogosphere (er, blawgosphere) and who was -- then -- a one-person public advertisement for humanity amid the heartlessness of law firms. Once upon a time, we cheered Reed Smith. Way to go!, for not only implementing a reasonable part time policy but for encouraging Denise to put a public face on it. Then came July 2006, and Denise was fired for putting the "life" in work/life balance. Oops. I have friends at Reed Smith, some of them women, and I have a lot of respect for them. But law firms will never recruit, retain, and promote women in serious numbers unless the firms go beyond teaching women how to network like the boys. The boys could learn some lessons from the women -- and yes, I worked at BigLaw law firms for almost 10 years, and yes, I know how the business works. Reed Smith's publicist earned a bonus today.

Meanwhile, right next to the story about women moving up in law firms is a story about Innovation Works extending the Life Sciences Greenhouse's executive-in-residence program. This is a great idea, and congrats to the first two e's-in-r, Randy Eager and Desmond O'Connor. But I looked hard, and I didn't see a single reference to women in executive positions. It seems to me that if IW and the forthcoming master tech strategy for Pittsburgh want to move the regional ball forward, they need to address -- among many other things -- gender equity.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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