2018 Women in Law Summit

The 2018 Women in Law Summit was an unforgettable event that touched on highly relevant issues for women (and men) in law today, including ways women can work to defeat gender bias in the legal profession, methods for improving time management skills and reducing stress, and steps men can take to help support women in their path to leadership.

The attendees stretched, posed, and debated their way into better understanding and tackling obstacles women face in the law today. For those who were unable to attend, and for those who just want to relive the amazing Women in Law Summit, please find a brief recap of the day below.

The first presentation, Breaking Through Bias: Communication Techniques for Women featuring Alton B. Harris and Andrea S. Kramer, acknowledged that the majority of leadership roles in the legal field are held by men. This fact can be partially attributed to the differing stereotypes attributed to women and men. Specifically, women are viewed as “communal,” meaning they are viewed as empathetic, emotional, and team-players. Men, on the other hand, are “agentic” meaning that they are viewed as strong, independent, and unemotional. As a result of these stereotypes, women are frequently presented with the “Goldilocks Dilemma,” i.e., women must find the perfect balance between agentic and communal to avoid being viewed as too weak on the one hand and too aggressive on the other.

To address the Goldilocks Dilemma, Mr. Harris and Ms. Kramer suggested that women engage in impression management by changing their style of communication depending on the situation. In other words, if the situation necessitates strong or “agentic” communication, don’t shy away from being agentic. Rather, rely on inherent personality traits to get the job done.

A roundtable discussion ensued wherein the attendees discussed and debated solutions to different scenarios women face in the workplace. Following the roundtable discussion, Ms. Kramer encouraged the attendees to stand in a “Superman Pose.” She recommended standing in the pose prior to a big event to increase testosterone levels and decrease cortisol. Be your own superhero, ladies!

During the break, Lulafit helped the attendees engage in mindful movement to increase circulation and decrease stress. The movements were helpful in keeping the attendees alert and ready to participate in the programming. 

The Summit shed light on alternative career paths and the road less traveled in Charting Your Own Path: Roads to Successfeaturing Courtney O. Wylie, Jen Dawson, Desiree Moore, and Jesse Ruiz. During this discussion, the panelists shared their unique career stories on how they chartered their own path to success. The panelists openly discussed the obstacles they faced and the strategies and relationships that helped them overcome their obstacles to reach success.

The Summit also taught attendees how to harness stress to their advantage in Turning your Stress into Your Strength: The Power of “No” and “Yes, Please” featuring Courtney O. Wylie, Amy M. Gardner, and Jeena Cho. This discussion centered on why the word “no” is important to further your career. The panelists also discussed how attendees can maximize their time by focusing on their values and career goals.

The Summit next taught women how to be effective leaders in Leading as Women: What Really Works featuring Jennifer Breuer, Kimberly G. Metrick, Nicole Nocera, and Tina Tabachi, and was moderated by Elizabeth Winiarski.  This discussion emphasized the increased scrutiny female leaders encounter with regards to their leadership techniques. The panelists talked about the importance of remaining true to yourself while being aware of your tone and body language, as well as the reactions and cues of the people in the room.

The panelists encouraged the women in attendance to stop apologizing for expressing an opinion and advised the attendees to “forget everything learned in kindergarten,” i.e., color in the lines, don’t make too much noise, make things perfect, be nice, don’t brag, etc. Women leaders must be willing break the rules and find new paths while harnessing their intuition.

The final panel in the Summit focused on men’s role in helping women rise to the top. The Male Perspective: Supporting Women as Leaders in Law featuring Gerald J. Bekkerman, Peter B. Bensinger, Jr., John C. Stiglich II, moderated by Alton B. Harris, provided the male perspective on the issues women face in the practice of law.  It also focused on what men can do to help, including supporting women early on in their careers and providing an environment where women know that their voice will be heard. The panelists and attendees discussed how the #MeToo movement demonstrates the breadth and pervasiveness of the issues facing women in the workplace and the need for men to get involved.

The Summit finished off with a phenomenal networking reception where attendees could mingle and discuss the topics addressed at each panel. Thank you so much to the panelists and attendees for making the 2018 Women in Law Summit one of the WBAI events yet! 

Veronica Couzo is an associate and practices in labor and employment law at Perkins Coie, handling cases involving race, age, disability and gender discrimination, non-competition agreements and trade secret disputes. Veronica is involved with the Juvenile Protection Association and was a board member in 2017.

Jennifer Bekkerman is of counsel to Taxman, Pollock, Murray & Bekkerman, LLC and was a co-chair of this event. In her free time, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family at any of Chicago’s beautiful parks or museums, attending theatre and music shows, and enjoying the many incredible restaurants in the city.