FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 21, 2018
Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts
Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts
firstname.lastname@example.org · 617-973-6666
Lauren Stiller Rikleen
Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership
LRikleen@RikleenInstitute.com · 508-259-3500
In the wake of #MeToo and the enormous focus on workplace behaviors that profoundly impact careers, the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, in partnership with the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership, announces the results of its groundbreaking survey: Survey of Workplace Conduct and Behaviors in Law Firms.
The survey was created to: provide a better understanding of behaviors taking place in the law firm work environment; identify steps that have been taken to address behaviors of concern; and offer recommendations that leaders can implement to ensure they are providing a workplace that feels safe, respectful, and inclusive. The lessons learned from this survey have broad-based applicability across all sectors.
One key finding of the survey is that unchecked power imbalance serves as the foundation for and perpetuates negative and inappropriate behaviors in the workplace. In the vast majority of responses, the incidents described happened to individuals who were at early stages of their career, or to those who were otherwise in a subordinate role that left them particularly vulnerable to unchecked behaviors.
Power imbalances also emerged in the ways in which these incidents were handled. Many of the experiences described by the respondents were perpetrated by individuals with important roles within their firms. As a result, the majority of respondents did not report negative behaviorsbecause they feared retribution or because the people they would report to were involved in the incidents described.
“The WBA is grateful to Lauren Stiller Rikleen for starting this conversation on the persistence of misconduct in the law firm setting,” said WBA President Meredith Ainbinder. “I am struck by the respondent who said that misconduct would not be tolerated in her workplace because she was the boss. That anecdote drove home what the WBA has known for many years: firms and individuals benefit when women hold meaningful leadership positions.”
“By undertaking this study, the WBA has taken an important step to constructively address difficult workplace challenges that continue to thwart careers,” stated Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership. “As these challenges continue to surface, every sector has an obligation to develop information specifically analyzing the existence and prevalence of behaviors that create work environments that feel unsafe or inhospitable to those who work there.”
In addition to a detailed analysis of the survey results, the report provides 17 constructive recommendations to help law firms – and other organizations - develop and implement positive changes that promote a diverse, respectful, and inclusive workplace culture.
The survey was open to anyone who works or has worked in a law firm in Massachusetts, whether or not the firm has offices outside the Commonwealth. Respondents were not only asked about their experiences, but about whether they reported incidents described and if they did not, to share their reasons for not doing so.
About the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts
Founded in 1978 by a group of activist women lawyers, the Women’s Bar Association boasts a large membership of women lawyers, judges, policy makers, and law students across Massachusetts. The WBA is committed to the full and equal participation of women in the legal profession and in a just society. The WBA works to achieve this mission through committees and task forces and by developing and promoting a legislative agenda to address society’s most critical social and legal issues. Other WBA activities include drafting amicus briefs, studying employment issues affecting women, encouraging women to enter the judiciary, recognizing the achievement of women in the law, and providing pro bono services to women in need through its sister organization, the Women’s Bar Foundation. For more information, visit www.womensbar.org.
About the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership
Lauren Stiller Rikleen, founder and president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership, is a nationally recognized expert on developing a thriving, diverse and multi-generational workforce. Through her speaking, training, consulting, and writing, she addresses women’s leadership and advancement, implementing strategies to minimize the impact of unconscious bias, and strengthening multi-generational teams.
Reports authored by Lauren include the Report of the Ninth Annual NAWL National Survey On Retention And Promotion Of Women In Law Firms (2015), and Closing the Gap: A Roadmap for Achieving Gender Pay Equity in Law Firm Partner Compensation (American Bar Association’s Gender Equity Task Force, 2013). Lauren is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Bar Association Commission on Women’s Margaret Brent Women of Achievement Award and the Lelia J. Robinson Award from the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts.
Lauren’s books include: Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women’s Success in the Law; Ladder Down: Success Strategies For Lawyers From The Women Who Will Be Hiring, Reviewing and Promoting You; and You Raised Us, Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams. She has also authored more than 170 articles, including topical commentary and op ed pieces in major media outlets.
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