Diversity Scorecard 2014: Women Closing The Gender Gap

, Daily Business Review

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Niza M. Motola of Littler Mendelson and Mercedes M. Sellek of Maspons Sellek Jacobs
Niza M. Motola of Littler Mendelson and Mercedes M. Sellek of Maspons Sellek Jacobs

Ellesquire, a group of primarily Hispanic female attorneys in South Florida, meets for breakfast or dinner once a month to network and share business development ideas.

Five established female lawyers and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Laurel Isicoff in Miami have picked six up-and-coming female business and bankruptcy lawyers to mentor at a monthly lunch group they informally call their "Lean In" group.

Click here for the 2014 Diversity Scorecard

Citibank recently hosted a networking cocktail reception for female lawyers attended by 15 to 20 prominent attorneys including Effie Silva, a new partner at McDermott Will & Emery; Lea Souza-Rasile, former Miami managing partner of Shook Hardy & Bacon; and Alison Miller of Stearns Weaver Miller Alhadeff & Sitterson.

Two former White & Case female lawyers last year formed a professional group called Dos Equis in honor of women's double X chromosome.

Throughout South Florida, female lawyers are starting networking and mentoring groups and finding ways to help other women get business, secure appointments to judicial nominating commissions and Florida Bar committees, and raise their profiles.

Their goal is to close the widening gender gap and move women ahead in the legal industry.

While women are the majority in law school classes, they are far from reaching gender parity at the partnership level, and female managing partners are a rarity at law firms. Five of the biggest law firms in the AmLaw 200 failed to promote any women to partner this year.

In South Florida, the gender disparity in the legal field was highlighted with the first female partner being named by White & Case in the 25-year history of the firm's Miami office.

"It's all about women helping women," said Mercedes Sellek of Maspons Sellek Jacobs in Coral Gables, who co-founded Ellesquire two years ago. "We've known all along that we've needed to lean in, but we've been hesitant to do it. I think when you are part of a greater group you empower women."

Mentoring Women

Sellek, who co-chaired the Status of Latinas in the Legal Profession study for the Hispanic National Bar Association, launched Ellesquire two years ago with Niza Motola, special counsel at Littler Mendelson. The group now has 80 members, including an accountant, law professors and public interest attorneys.

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