A friend’s daughter is finishing up law school. Due to my not-so-secret double life as an expert witness working with big law firms, she asked me for advice as to whether to join one of three international firms that had offered her jobs. Her passion is white collar criminal defense (should be a growing field if the taxpayers keep investing in multi-year investigations that reveal nothing more than Americans getting paid for having sex and/or trying to minimize their tax payments):
Right now I am struggling because at [Firm A] they have an incredible white collar group that is small, extremely prestigious and also full of incredible women …
At [Firm B], I would just go into general litigation, and then I could put my hand up to get in on white collar projects, but it might be more difficult to specialize. They are also really committed to pro bono … It is also a litigation-forward firm (rather than dominated by the corporate practice) which I like too.
I assembled a group email panel of lawyers and business executives. Male perspective:
I wouldn’t rely on women. Female intrasexual competition is human nature (other species too). You are a young fertile woman. The women in management are aging, no longer as attractive, and no longer fertile. Maybe they voted for Hillary but their biological instinct will be to have you killed, not to help you take their places in the boardroom.
It would be an advantage to be the only women on a litigation team. There will be women on the jury and perhaps the judge will be a woman. The team will have to put you forward in order to forestall accusations of sexism. Whereas if there are 10 women on the team you could be at a back desk handing out documents. Maybe there are other good reasons to like [Firm A], but I wouldn’t give any extra points because there are woman running the show there.
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In my view, all else being equal, the woman factor might be a reason to chose [Firm A] over your alternative. However, most important is whether the role at [Firm A] is what you want and the environment/ team dynamics are the best route to your success/ achieving your goals.
For me, working with women vs men really doesn’t matter as long as I feel I am set up for success.
Working with “incredible women” may not be better for you than working with incredible men. What makes these women incredible? Is there a difference between “incredible women” and “incredible men”? And what does their being “incredible” mean for you?
As I think back to all the work situations I’ve been in with women vs men over the last 20 years, I can say that this is absolutely right: “their biological instinct will be to have you killed, not to help you take their places in the boardroom.” It takes a very accomplished woman who is not insecure about where she is in life to suppress that instinct. No matter how old she is. There are not many women that accomplished in the workforce today. If you find one to work with awesome. If not, no big deal.
Men are generally easier to deal with in my experience. They are less complex. With men it usually comes down to ego. If you don’t attack their egos, and keep your relationship professional, they won’t try to compete with you or cross any lines. To the contrary, they will see you as an ally and they will support you.
I also agree about the advantage of being the only woman on a team. It’s not just about being the only woman though, it’s about being good at what you do AND being different from your peers in a way that obviously benefits the team/company.
Example: I am the VP of North America [Widgets and Services], two levels removed from our corporate ([Fortune 500 company name]) CEO. I am the only female VP on [this] team and the only person in the company who understands [something that brings in a growing amount of revenue].
Next month, [the Fortune 500] will hold it’s investor day. 20 of our top institutional investors will be visiting along with the entire top executive team. My boss and his boss will be presenting to this group, as will the Presidents of every other division. I found out yesterday, that I too will be presenting. I am the only VP – level person from all of [the Fortune 500] who will be presenting and the only woman. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a President or SVP because I am the best they have and a woman to boot!