How one law firm achieved gender parity (and 3 tips to manage your talent)
Found on the homepage of Lerners LLP’s website is the following: “In matters of the law, nothing matters more than the firm and people you choose to represent your interests.”
It is because of the talented, developed and motivated people working at this firm that success has been achieved. Specifically, due to the high performances of several female lawyers, Lerners LLP has become one of Canada’s first law firms to accomplish gender parity.
The Start and Evolution of Gender Parity through Talent Management
Quite a bit has changed since Janet Stewart, the first female lawyer at Lerners LLP, began working in the law field back in 1969. For starters, Stewart has been with the firm for almost 46 years, a firm that is now stacked with 55 percent of female lawyers. Even more gratifying, 45 percent of these women happen to be partners at Lerners LLP—which is more than double the national average. Therefore, it’s no big surprise that this litigation firm in Toronto is one of the first in Canada to accomplish gender parity. Better yet, this triumph became valid without affirmative action taking place within the company, but by engaging employees to become the best they can be and developing and sharpening skills in order to meet goals and objectives.
Throughout the Toronto office of Lerners LLP, partner Earl Cherniak is known as the “honorary skirt.” When accepting the Toronto Lawyer’s Association award of distinction last month, he touched upon women in the legal profession. Specifically, Cherniak spoke about when he first passed the bar in 1960 and how female lawyers seemed to be an “exotic rarity” during that time. He spoke about how women in the 50s, 60s, and even throughout the 70s were not given the adequate opportunities they deserved. In short, a viable resource in the field of law wasn’t being accessed: women.
It’s important to note that Lerners LLP never had the intention of obtaining gender parity, but simply wanted to hire the best candidate for the task at hand—whether that particular contender happened to be male or female. As it turned out, Janet Stewart happened to be the best woman for the job.
Still as important today as it was back when Stewart began, Lerners LLP’s number one objective is to make a difference. It is through the talent of the firm that this difference can be made. To achieve the highest performances possible from its employees, Lerners LLP promotes rewarding and challenging learning experiences that will allow lawyers to shape the path of their careers and reach a certain level of success.
Popular Ways to Promote Talent Management
Before Lerners LLP could achieve success or gender parity, the talent that was chosen to be a part of the law firm had to be properly managed, allowing the employees to perfect their individual skills sets, as well as develop new strengths and abilities to meet goals.
In order for any type of business to thrive, leaders of the company must motivate and create an environment where high performances can be achieved. Here are a few examples on how to do so:
1. Express Needs and Realities of the Business
In order to achieve the best results from the talent, it’s important for leaders to express to their team what is needed and expected. For example, communicating with the staff and depicting specific challenges, strategies and goals can help assure that all efforts are being enforced to obtain the same result. It’s important to ensure that each person is doing his or her daily part to help the business grow and succeed.
2. Time Management
Not only is it vital for a leader to clearly express what is expected from the team, but this leader must also prioritize projects to help ensure that tasks are getting accomplished in an appropriate and timely manner. Furthermore, in order for a company to become successful, the idea of time management must be addressed and promoted. After all, one of the most common hazards in business is to waste time.
3. Widen the Skills of Your Team to Promote Growth
Even after the talent has been hired and accepted by the company, it will be important to assist the employee in developing new skills to help promote growth. Giving members of the team an opportunity to not only perfect current skills but also develop new ones can help the individual employee grow alongside the company.
Regardless of what the ultimate goal of a business may be—achieving gender parity or earning a top spot on a Forbes ranking list—one common factor remains: the importance of talent management. It is through employment development that success can ultimately be achieved.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.