Susan Smith Blakely

Achieving Gender Diversity from One of America’s Top Lawyers

Mary Cranston is one of America's best-known women lawyers --- or just plain best-known lawyers.  She was a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and served as its Chairman of the Board.  She has been named one of "The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America" by the National Law Journal, one of two "Best Law Firm Leaders in the United States" by Of Counsel and has been profiled as "One of the Best Female Antitrust Lawyers in the World" by Global Competition Review. She was the 2005 recipient of the prestigious Margaret Brent Award, the American Bar Association’s highest award for women lawyers, who demonstrate legal excellence and help pave the way for other women lawyers.

So, when Mary Cranston speaks, people listen.  She recently spoke to an audience in New Zealand, and this article in LawFuel captures the essence of her message.   Here is what she has to say about achieving gender diversity in law practice.  I think you would agree that she knows the subject well and brings great experience and vision to the discussion.  She is starting at the top to identify the responsibilities that law firms must take in finding solutions to this important issue.  Here is a summary of what Mary Cranston has to say about achieving gender diversity in law firms:

3 Things Law Firms Need to Do to Achieve Gender Diversity:

Push from the top:  There must be leadership from the top not just lip service.  The leaders must understand unconscious bias.  An example is identifying women as having less potential for leadership unless there is an intervention.  Women get perceived as specialists with no bandwidth.  All leadership and all employees, up and down the line, need to be aware of unconscious bias.

Put the women in the top jobs and let them prove themselves.  Give them a chance instead of making unfounded assumptions.

Give women gender training so that they can recognize and control gender stereotyping better.  Women have some of the same gender stereotypes about themselves that men have about them, and that is why women have inner doubts about their competencies.  They have to be taught how to avoid those stereotypes and not play into them.

Think about it and discuss it in your law firm's Women's Initiative and Diversity Committee.  Also discuss it in your bar associations, especially your women's bar associations.

Pass it on and make it work for all of us!

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she taught legal research and writing. She also is a Marshall Goldsmith trained career and leadership coach and a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches.  She also is a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 

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