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| 24 minutes read

CMO Series REPRESENTS - Embracing Equity: Harnessing the power of your network

Our celebration of leading women in professional services marketing continues on this week’s episode of CMO Series REPRESENTS where we explore the power of networks and why building and sustaining strong relationships with peers in professional services marketing can be key to longevity and success within the industry. 

We’re grateful to hear unique insights and personal experiences on developing professional support networks from Geneva Granatstein, Director of Marketing at Lane Powell, Laura Nicholls, Chief Business Development Officer at Ashurst, Jessica Grayson, Managing Director of Business Development and Marketing at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan,  Larissa Palmer, Chief Business Development Officer, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Natalia Ruiz-Moreno, Head of Marketing & Business Development at Boyes Turner, Melanie Davidson Barros, Chief Marketing Officer at Conyers, Melissa Marshall, Chief Marketing Officer at Levenfeld Pearlstein and Mary-Anne Russell, Head of Marketing and Sales Enablement at AMS.


Charlie: Welcome to CMO series REPRESENTS brought to you by Passle.  

On today's episode, our celebration of leading women in professional services marketing and business development continues as we explore the power of networks, and how building and sustaining strong relationships with peers within professional services marketing can be key to a long and successful career.

First up, we're grateful to hear from Geneva Granatstein, Director of Marketing at Lane Powell, who discusses the inspirational female mentors who have paved the way to creating an equitable place to thrive.

Geneva: I've been in the legal industry for just over a decade now and I've had the opportunity to witness immense amounts of change during that time. I think that change is what's kept me so engaged. The legal marketing industry is one where women leaders have had the opportunity to thrive and really to support each other. I've been lucky to have several mentors over the years who have demonstrated how women can be successful in this industry. And that really helps me to begin to plan for my own professional development and see how my career could grow and thrive in this industry. 

Today, I'm honored to work at a law firm with a female president and where more than half of our board of directors are women. I see people like me being successful and that is really meaningful to me on a daily basis. Of course, there's always more work to be done and I hope I can help to continue to move that change forward for future generations as well. I think law firms can embed equity in their culture beginning with the talent pipeline. If we can help students understand the career paths that are available to them in our industry, with or without higher education and showcase the accessibility for roles within the legal industry, then we'll see an applicant pool and ultimately a workforce that comes from diverse backgrounds and experiences. It's important that our work does not stop there though. We need to invest in that diverse workforce by providing meaningful professional development opportunities and a clear pathway for employees to grow their careers within our firms and our industry. 

While the Mansfield rules currently focuses around attorney roles, I'd love to see that broadened to include professional staff roles as well. Either way though, our firms and we as leaders can do exactly what Mansfield's goal is to ensure that we're considering a broad slate of talent for leadership roles, providing transparency when it comes to promotion decisions and examining decisions with an equity lens throughout the process.

My number one piece of advice for women entering the industry is to build your personal brand from day one. I really thank my personal brand for helping me to get to where I am today. I started at my firm as a marketing specialist and made it a goal to always be professional, to do good work, be reliable. And as my understanding of the work in the industry grew, I came to be confident in sharing my ideas. This allowed me to build the trusting relationships which opened up new doors for me. If I didn't have firm leadership in my attorneys believing in me and what I can do, then I really wouldn't have been able to grow my career here at Lane Powell. And I'm super grateful to have had the opportunity to do so.

The other piece of advice I would share is to commit yourself to networking and relationship building. This is something I did not do as much of early on in my own career and I'm still trying to improve upon it to this day because it doesn't necessarily come naturally to me. Growing your network will not only provide you with opportunities to learn from your peers, sometimes commiserate with them or share ideas of things that you're dealing with in your own role, but it will also provide career growth opportunities when you're ready for a new adventure. I suggest joining an association such as the Legal Marketing Association in our industry, which is a great way to get started with this and then find some new ways to volunteer or get more involved as the years continue. I really value all of the relationships that I've built with local legal marketers over the past few years, and I always know I have someone to turn to if I do have questions.

Charlie: Laura Nicholls, Chief Business Development Officer at Ashurst joins us to share how her former career outside of legal marketing helped build resilience and why leaning into mentors and peers with shared experiences can help support women on their professional and personal journeys.

Laura: So my experience as being a woman in professional services marketing has been overall quite a positive one and I think through my time, I've been quite fortunate actually to have worked within some fantastic firms and with some really brilliant mentors along the way. Before I moved into legal business development, I actually completed a four year apprenticeship as a chef working across a number of establishments in Melbourne, Australia. And I think actually the four years that I worked as a chef were probably quite formidable in terms of the resilience that I've actually built as a woman, both in that career and then in the career that I've been able to carve out working within professional services. And what I mean by that is actually, as you probably know, the cooking industry, the restaurant industry is a heavily male dominated industry. And over my career, I worked predominantly with men in very high pressured environments where there was a lot of sexist and derogatory behavior towards women. Unfortunately, and I think it was that experience that really built, I think quite a lot of resilience in me as I went into the legal industry. And I think during that time, actually, what we've seen is is a lot more women in senior roles. I still remember the early days of sitting around the boardroom table and being the only woman in the room, and with my invitation to be in that room, was really to take notes and to manage actions off the back of meetings. There were few female role models um in those days and even fewer of them had managed a family outside of the office. Thankfully, I can say that this is no longer the case. I also believe that I am an example of the progress women have made in the legal industry over the last 20 years. I am a working mother in my, in my mid-40s and I'm someone that's been able to cover a really strong career. So I very much believe it's doable, but it does take a high level of sacrifice.

I think law firms can really embrace equity and embed it in their culture um by continuing to push themselves to operate at a higher level. I believe there's been a lot of work done in this area. By way of example, in the UK, here we have the gender pay gap report which is an annual disclosure requirement for companies with over 250 people. The other, I suppose, evolution you've seen across the legal industry is a lot more firms actually committing to diversity commitments with annual self reporting requirements. This is obviously really incredibly important um because it continues to push law firms to really look at themselves and really uh get clear in terms of how they are operating benchmarked uh to others within the sector, which I think is very important.

My advice for women entering the professional services industry now and reflecting on the 20 years I've had in my career it is really to push and push forward, own the room, speak up, have a voice. Don't be a wall flower, don't be intimidated if you're the only woman in the room. I had some advice given to me quite early on in my career. And it's advice that's always kind of stuck with me. Try and talk in the first 15 minutes of any meeting. If you're talked over, make sure you call the behaviour out. It does happen unfortunately, but most of the time people don't recognise that they're doing it. Be there and be present, shake everybody's hands, look them in the eye and own the space, own your space and don't be intimidated by the environment. Lean into mentors at all levels across the organisation and outside of the organisation. I think lean into opportunities wherever they might come, as intimidating as some of those opportunities might be. I probably, another little known story about me is that I actually joined a law firm here in the UK whilst five months pregnant. I had disclosed at the interview process that I was in the early stages of pregnancy and joined the law firm whilst five months pregnant, which was fantastic. They were incredibly supportive of me. And you know, they really welcomed me with open arms and really helped and encouraged me during those initial months whilst I was also in the late stages of pregnancy. And, you know, I think reflecting back, you know, 20 years ago, I don't think that would have happened you know, but that's a story that I have shared with a number of other younger females in this industry who might also be navigating some of the complexities around pregnancy, job opportunities, you know, when is the right time to move, so those type of things are I think are both incredibly important to push into but also incredibly important to share.

Charlie: Next up, Jessica Grayson, Managing Director of Business Development and Marketing at Stroock and Stroock and Lavan, shares how firms need to take a cultural assessment when it comes to embedding equity and the importance of leveraging professional development opportunities and networks in a legal marketing career.

Jessica: So my experience as a woman in professional services marketing has been quite rewarding. I've been very fortunate to have found um and networked and developed relationships with very strong mentors, and what's even more important - sponsors. And, you know, knowing the difference between a mentor and a sponsor is, you know, a mentor is someone who can give you some guidance and give you advice, you can talk through, you know, problems or issues. And a sponsor is someone who speaks up for you in a room. When you're not in the room, a sponsor is looking for opportunities for you. As I have taken on leadership roles, I am in kind doing the same thing, you know, looking for opportunities for the more junior people on my team, for women in my network. So law firms can embrace equity and embed that in their culture in several ways. And I think, you know, first, you know, they have to take a step back and say, ‘do we know what that is? Do we know what our culture is? Do we know what we want our culture to be?’ And we have to define it and we have to articulate it and we have to communicate it and then we have to live it. And when you're doing that process, you know, you have to be inclusive as well of all of the voices in the firm. So sometimes, you know, it's a cultural assessment and that can be uncomfortable sometimes, you know, to take that look in a mirror and say, ‘wow, we thought our culture was this, but this is actually what our culture is because, you know, we did this assessment and everyone participated’ and then being very transparent about the results and designing a strategic plan to move some of the opportunities to have a more, you know, diverse or equitable culture. Be very deliberate about the people and the voices that you have around the table that are leading your enterprise. So there's a lot of different ways to really embrace, but you have to be deliberate and transparent. And it has to be authentic.

My advice for women entering the industry now would be first and foremost, know your stuff, become an expert in your field and that is taking advantage of any professional development opportunities including professional associations, conferences, webinars, but also investing in your own professional development, whether that's an executive coach, whether that's, you know, going to a conference or a seminar on your own dime, knowing your stuff is critical. And I think embracing discomfort is also something that you have to realise that when you're uncomfortable - you're growing. So, you know, going into a meeting, speaking up, taking up space, sharing ideas, contributing to a conversation, know that your contributions are valuable and it does feel uncomfortable and even the most poised polished women in the room when they're presenting, they still get that um that feeling in their stomach of you know, being uncomfortable. We all share that, we just hide it better as we get more seasoned. But you, you should be, you know, sharing your ideas, they're valuable and they're critical. Develop a network of your peers and, you know, within your firm, outside your firm - professional associations, anything that you do, you know, for extracurricular type activity, your book clubs, your Zumba classes, whatever it is you're doing, develop those network of women that are your peers that will come up with you that you can rely on for feedback, that you can rely on for referrals for you know, just building your own professional network. I think that feedback is a gift. So whenever you get feedback I take it very seriously and I'm always appreciative of it. And the best mentors and guiding forces in my professional career have been those who have been willing to go out on a limb and give me feedback. And I'm very grateful for those gifts.

Charlie: We welcome Larissa Palmer, Chief Business Development Officer at Cravath, Swaine & Moore who shares her experience and why firms need to take intentional steps to embed equity within their culture.

Larissa: So my experience as a woman in professional services marketing has been really positive actually, I've been working for law firms for just over 20 years. It's actually been a fantastic ride. A bit of a wild ride, while still recognising that I'm in a predominantly male driven world. So this question of how can law firms embrace equity and embed it in their culture is, is harder to do than it seems. The easy part is to say, treat everyone equally right? And of course, I think we all agree with that. But what does that really mean? I think you know, all of us interact with individuals, different individuals every day when we walk in the door. And I think whether we like it or not, we do judge people and we do it through the lens of whatever our own personal experience has been. And I think the problem with that is we probably assume that we are more magnanimous and broad thinking than we truly are. All of our experiences don't necessarily, can't necessarily take into account what another person has done, the road that they've walked, the experiences they have had. So I think there's a lot of requirement of sort of stretching yourself, stepping out of your own experience and trying to put yourself in the shoes of another person. And even if you can't imagine that, to be able to be open to understanding that other people's journeys are not your own. So I think it takes time. Ultimately, I think if you come in with a positive attitude every day and say I'm gonna just, I'm gonna treat people the way I expect to be treated.  And that starts with respect. Everybody deserves that respect and we should treat each other that in a collegial environment that we're in and uh and understand that that's really important. 

I think the next level of how you help promote people who are maybe in a minority in your firm is much more difficult. I think you do have to take extra steps. I think you have to be more conscious. I would consider myself as somebody who needs to model that behaviour and then encourage my managers to model that behaviour. It is certainly a very unique culture to be in a law firm. You have to be somebody who's willing to perhaps put your ego aside a bit, which may be a little bit difficult for a young person. Certainly it was for me. I was in sales, I had, like, just closed a million dollars in sales that quarter. And so I felt pretty good about myself. And you come into a law firm and you really have to put that aside pretty quickly. But I also found that the best thing you can do is really just come in every day with a very positive attitude, be willing to learn, be willing to grow and stretch yourself, be willing to accept that you're not right about everything. And that your perspective may be a bit limited when you're young. And I think also to look for people that can help you.

Charlie: Our next guest reflects on the challenges she has encountered during her career and discusses the role of wider society in truly embedding equity inside and outside of the industry. We welcome Natalia Ruiz-Moreno, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Boyes Turner.

Natalia: So my experience as a woman in professional services marketing has been mixed. Yeah, it's not been great. I'll be honest. I think the role itself has kind of been treated as kind of less than and not equal to the sort of, you know, to the fee earners. And I think, I'd come from a tech, a marketing tech background before. So it was kind of a bit of a shock getting used to kind of the way marketing was perceived within the sort of professional services sector. Whereas in the tech sector, we were much more kind of a real value add. Whereas within professional services and this is less like, you know, 16 years ago, it's very much kind of, you know, what I call now, sometimes perceived as the coloring in department. I think we've made some progress, but it's been a real kind of challenge really just to kind of have that seat at the table to kind of be seen as a real valuable resource. 

Many firms now, I think probably have far more initiatives than maybe we had a few years ago, which is, you know, which is a good thing. But I suppose really the challenge is maintaining those and driving those initiatives and not treating them as kind of like a tick box exercise. But yeah it's a tricky one, you know, for example, this firm is great. We've got tons of women here. We've got, it's a really good culture we've got, and you know, and it's kind of reflective of what I've read in the press as well. There's lots of juniors coming in, we've got lots of female talent that is coming in and then of course, what's happening is as they're progressing through their careers, they're kind of either, you know, having to take, I don't know, part time roles or take more of a sort of, you know, a back seat because, you know, it's trying to tackle that kind of work life balance is difficult. I mean, it's difficult for everybody. It's difficult for men and women, but in particular, I think it tends to fall on the shoulders of the women to kind of organise child care and all the rest of it. But I think, it's not just down to the firm to kind of help embed it. I think it's a whole societal thing and it's all of our responsibility to kind of, embed that, some films I think are better than others. This firm is really good and it kind of, you know, trying to, you know, promote that sort of, equality and equity across the firm. But it's still got, you know, like a lot of firms still has a way to go because when you go up the ranks, you know, at partner level, there's definitely more men. But, you know, It's a wider conversation. It's not just down to individual firms to do.

My advice for women entering the industry either as a marketing professional in professional services would be, kind of to seek out a mentor and the earlier you do it in your career the better. You know, I think it's just so critical to find, and just all the way through your career, having a sounding board to sense check stuff is just really vital. So if you do, if there is somebody who you kind of trust and you can talk to and who's kind of been there, done that and then that's just gold dust finding a great mentor. Believe in yourself and believe in the value that you bring. In marketing, they're super talented and just have to really believe in yourself and believe in what you're delivering and don't be afraid to kind of stand up, you know, obviously you've done your homework, you work really hard on something, you know, stand up for it, you know, show your value and don't be afraid of it. The one thing I've had to do is really build resilience, and that is critical and I think even in this industry, it's just because it is can be really, really tough, it's really fun, but it can be really tough as well. And I think one thing I've had to do is just, yeah, is build resilience. So that you can, you know, just kind of some of the stuff that you do get thrown your way, you can kind of just brush off, not take it, not take it to heart. And you know, just keep learning from it all the time. So don't sort of see, you know, if something goes wrong or a meeting doesn't go well, you know, it's all these failures are always opportunities to learn.

Charlie: The value and contribution that the marketing and BD function brings to professional services now play a strategic role in firm management. Melanie Barros, Chief Marketing Officer at Conyers, joins us to share her thoughts on the evolution of legal marketing and the power of relationships within the industry.

Melanie: My experience as a woman in professional services marketing, I would say it has been a rewarding one. You know, I think there's been so many positives and so many wins that have made it really quite satisfying. But I mean, it, as anyone who's listening to this would know, it's certainly not without its challenges. I think when I reflect back over my career in professional services marketing, which is almost 20 years now, you know, it's really, really evolved in that space. I think some of the, you know, the challenges early on really were about demonstrating value from our team and what that could mean for a law firm. And, you know, when I compare that to sort of where we are now, and I think of my current team, you know, marketing is in incredibly high demand. You know, there's a lot of mutual respect between us and our clients, our internal clients, which should be the lawyers and sometimes internal departments. 

I think as a woman in professional services marketing, I would say that that things have evolved in that space as well. I think early on, there were a lot more of the challenges around, you know, give it to marketing, they'll make it pretty, to where we're seen now as, as equal and as having a seat at the table and contributing and adding value. I think law firms can embrace equity and embed that in their culture by really focusing on individuals, equity really comes down to ensuring that individuals have the tools that they need to be successful. So probably more about accessibility and, you know, when I think of an example of that rather than a firm wide initiative about equity um and bring it closer to home, you know, I sort of think of my own marketing team. And recently, you know, we were sort of talking about how everyone was sort of feeling in terms of their contribution and the value that they bring to the firm. And it really became evident that some of the production team really struggled and felt that they didn't have that because they didn't have a seat at the table. So when the BD specialists are sort of working with the lawyers up front on an initiative. I mean, that's where the great brainstorming comes in and there's a lot of exciting ideas. It's put into a marketing brief and it's pushed back and there hadn't really been that thought about, is that the experience, or what is that experience that everybody on the team is happening? So we, what we did is we changed up our weekly production meetings and rather than doing round tables and talking about what everybody's working on, we changed the discussion to say, all right, what's on deck and talking about some of those bigger initiatives and what that did was give everyone on the team an opportunity to be at that table and to ask those questions and to contribute ideas and well, I think it's a little bit awkward because it's a change at, at the very beginning, those meetings we have now are really quite incredible. They're robust. And people feel valued. It's really all about the relationships in professional services or legal marketing.

Charlie: Melissa Marshall, Chief Marketing Officer at Levenfeld Pearlstein shares the positive experiences she has had within her firm and how a strong support network has helped her navigate managing senior roles and motherhood.

Melissa: I've been extremely fortunate to work at firms that support women in the workplace. Each firm I've been at has made a commitment that, you know, they select diverse candidates from the start that are eligible for leadership and high visibility positions within the firm. It also includes how we select leaders for positions within the firm, how we make our hiring decisions at both entry level and lateral attorney positions and how we form our teams, for client pitches. I've always been allowed to be my authentic self. There were many times it could have been a very different experience. And I'm thinking back to 2012 when I welcomed my first daughter Kaitlin and back in 2015, when I welcomed my second daughter Lexi. At the time, I was overseeing two markets, both Phoenix and Chicago. I was onboarding new attorneys, marketing new practice groups, following up on analytics and pivoting our entire marketing strategy, all while trying to figure out how to be a new mom and make sure my babies were also thriving. What made the difference was I was supported. And today it is my hope that everyone I work with feels supported and valued by me. 

As a law firm you have to be committed to real change. And I'm gonna put the emphasis on the real um as lawyers, they are guided and they want to be shared by a dedication to justice. And that means modeling our firm's culture and organizational structures on the kind of fairness and inclusion that we want to see in the world. And it means doing the work to make sure we are asking the difficult questions, listening with intention and implementing, evaluating and revising policies that uplifts true equality.

You've got to build your network, you've got to find those mentors and ask yourself who's going to push you. We tend to find those that praise us and validate us. And of course, that's extremely important. But what's going to set you apart is when you find the one that will push you out of your comfort zone with the best of intentions. If those networking groups do not exist or you struggle to find the right one, build your own, do the work and it will absolutely pay off.

Charlie: Our final guest on today's episode highlights the importance of finding a firm that has a coach that works for you and summarises the three types of people that you need to support you throughout your professional career. We welcome Mary-Anne Russell, Head of Marketing and Sales Enablement at AMS.

Mary-Anne: As a woman in marketing, what generally happens is the gender balance within the marketing function is often not quite equal, but probably nearer equal than in the rest of the company. So I think one of the things you need to be mindful of is the type of company you're working within. Generally in professional services, it can err on less of a gender balance. And that's when it's more important to be incredibly mindful of the culture of the business that you're going into or the culture that you're working in and you've just got to make sure that that culture works for you. And if it doesn't, you need to make it work for you or you need to move out. Embracing equity is really important and in my sort of 25 years of working and I believe you to do the maths, I've seen a definite change in the way that firms are embracing that equity. And I think one of the most important things is that needs to come from, absolutely, from the top because what happens is people generally mirror the behavior of the seniors above them. So as long as it comes from the top and when bad behavior does happen, it needs to be called out and then stopped. You know, there should be no behaviors that are inequitable, that are just left to rumble because that's when they can fester and they just carry on. I think the other way to be embracing equity is career development needs to be taken into consideration and everybody's careers needs to be as important as the person next to them, no matter what gender they are. That also is something that needs to come from the top and it needs to be mirrored all the way through the organisation.

You know, there's, there's so many wonderful things to be able to say about what that one piece of advice and my, you know what I'd be telling my newly and fresh out of university self. And I think it's, I think it's probably something that I've only realised and recently seen and I'd say it probably in the last 18 months that there's three people you absolutely have to have around you. And you are the only person that can influence this. And those three people are a coach, a mentor and a sponsor. And so often, I think we just find one or two of those. And the importance of those roles is the coach is the person who talks with you, provides development support and usually sort of soft skills and tech versus technical skills. The mentor is the person who talks with you and provides guidance and to help you navigate your career and navigate big choices or big decisions. And then the sponsor is a really important person that I've only really learned the importance of and they're a senior leader who's not necessarily the person you report into the day, the person who is the strong influence and the person who is in the room when those visible conversations are happening about you, about jobs and promotions and salaries and all that kind of good stuff. You've got to have that person who's in the room who's backing you and is sponsoring those conversations to happen correctly.

Charlie: Thank you to all of our guests for bringing their unique perspectives and lived experiences to this conversation. We'd love to hear your thoughts and your experiences of building strong networks within the industry and how that's impacted your career. Please drop your thoughts in the comments on LinkedIn.

You can subscribe to CMO series represents via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.

Thanks for listening.


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