Left to right:Linda Madrid, CarrAmerica; Diana Daniels, The Washington Post Company; and Maud Mater, Freddie Mac.
(Photo by Claus Mroczynski)
There have been stunning gains in the ranks of female attorneys over the past two decades. But within the past five years, one of the most notable advancements for women lawyers has taken place within the walls of the nation's leading corporations. Today, 62 women have broken the glass ceiling to capture the coveted position of chief legal officer of a Fortune 500® corporation, which translates to 12.4 percent of all Fortune 500® general counsel.
When this elite circle was last examined (see the May 2000 issue of Diversity & The Bar magazine), women general counsel numbered 42 or 8.4 percent. Within a two-year span, the club's gender diversity has climbed by 50 percent, with a full 84 percent of the current Fortune 500® women general counsel having joined the ranks only within the five-year span of 1996 through 2001.
Although the numbers are improving, it has only been in recent years that women lawyers have really started to ascend the ranks. In every category of the legal profession—whether in-house, in law firms, or the public sector—studies have shown that women generally fill the mid- to lower-level jobs and continue to earn less than their male counterparts.
This trend can be attributed to a number of factors, including crushing work schedules that force women to choose between active motherhood and their careers; limited networking opportunities for women; and a dearth of female mentors. There is also the perception that higher expectations are placed upon female attorneys who have the same qualifications as their male counterparts.
Despite such obstacles, more women are breaking the storied glass ceiling, although not without struggle or personal costs. Ceiling-breakers like Linda Madrid, Diana Daniels, Maud Mater, and Catherine Lamboley, all general counsel at top corporations, are part of the first wave of women who came of age and began careers in the post-women's movement world.
These women learned to remain undaunted when their contributions to meetings were overlooked, only to be heralded as great ideas when echoed by male colleagues. They learned not to complain when Saturday night found them laboring at the office, rather than enjoying personal time. Early in their careers, they set high standards for themselves, staked out their own values and management styles, and are now reaping the rewards. Of the generation that not only defined, but defied the glass ceiling, these four women have stories that can instruct younger women who choose to follow in their paths.
Today, as the managing director, general counsel and secretary of CarrAmerica Realty Corporation, Linda Madrid is at the top of her game. But in 1994, her life was in a state of flux. Her mother had just passed away, and the general counsel of Riggs National Corp., where she served as litigation manager, had resigned. He had been her mentor and she felt uncertain about the future.
Her brother, a chief financial officer for a shipping company, viewed the change as a challenge.
"He said, does this create an opportunity for you? Could you do the job? Would you do the job? He told me to ask for it. It never dawned on me to ask."
Madrid made the call to the president of Riggs, and although it didn't happen immediately, "ultimately, I got the job." From this experience, Madrid learned that it never hurts to ask for what you want.
Based in Washington, D.C., CarrAmerica is of one of the nation's leading owners, developers, and operators of commercial office properties, operating in six markets from coast to coast.
A mother of a five-year-old, Madrid, 42, oversees a legal staff she helped build, and is responsible for directing the company's legal affairs and corporate governance. Like the other female attorneys profiled here, Madrid credits her success to high standards set by her parents, to the role model of a working mother (hers was a nurse), and a willingness to sacrifice time, especially during the early years of her career. She also cited the ability to plan, organize, and juggle multiple tasks.
Madrid is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center and served as an editor of its law journal. She cut her teeth at two Washington, D.C. law firms, Sidley & Austin and Colton & Boykin.
Young women attorneys today have it a bit easier than she did, Madrid believes. "Mentoring has to be the biggest difference. In the law firm I joined after school, there was one woman partner in the Washington, D.C. office. There weren't the same mentoring options that there are today. When teams were put together to work on matters, I don't know that there was someone looking out for me. I think that was the toughest part."
However, she was able to find her own mentors, such as Marna Tucker, a high-powered Washington attorney.
"I went down to the Superior Court to watch her during a trial. I was so impressed by her presence; she really had confidence and poise."
CarrAmerica relies heavily on outside counsel. What Madrid brings to her job are her legal experience and intimate knowledge of the company. "It would be hard to describe a typical day. Because we are a very small department (three attorneys, one paralegal, and two administrative assistants), we have to be proactive in determining how to spend time where the client gets the greatest value. Very often I am doing something for the first time. For example, our largest shareholder, who owned over 40 percent of the company, sold out in August. It happened very quickly. You don't often know when something like that is going to happen, so you clear the decks and go full throttle. You're managing a process as well as carrying out the tasks."
"Being a general counsel is like being a quarterback," Madrid says. "You often have to figure out the plays, and then determine who the right people are to execute them."
Diana Daniels, 52, was an undergraduate at Cornell University at the height of the Vietnam War and civil rights movement. She remembers when black student activists took over a campus building and were later photographed coming out with guns hoisted in the air. "During my time on campus, there was a lot of unrest and concern about the war and other national issues facing the country," Daniels recalls. This early exposure to social issues propelled her into her law career.
Daniels was initially interested in urban planning, and won an internship her senior year working in city government in New York City under Mayor John Lindsey. She hadn't been there long when "it occurred to me that most policy and decision makers seemingly were not planners, accountants, or other professionals; they were lawyers."
So Daniels earned both a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School and a master's degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974.
At first, she had to strive to be taken as seriously as her male colleagues, even during after-hours events. As a young associate, she recalls a co-ed softball game with a rival law firm, in which, "the captains of the teams agreed that they could make substitutions to the batting order in the ninth inning. Come the ninth inning, the two leadoff batters were women. Guess who got substituted off? I couldn't believe my fellow associates would do that!"
Daniels started at the "white shoe" law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City, doing big financing deals and working with high-profile clients.
When The Washington Post newspaper began looking for an attorney—preferably a woman—"there weren't many to ask." After 11 months as assistant general counsel with the newspaper, she was, at 29, named general counsel at Newsweek, a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company. "Becoming a general counsel at a fairly early age meant that I spent a good amount of my time proving myself." She often spent 12 hours a day in the office and labored late Saturday nights when the magazine went to press.
In 1988, Daniels assumed her present position as vice president, general counsel and secretary of The Washington Post Company, where she is responsible for overseeing 17 attorneys dispersed throughout its various divisions.
Now the mother of two young daughters, ages three and six, Daniels has earned some flexibility in her schedule, slipping out of the office for ballet recitals and school plays.
Today, The Washington Post Company owns a major daily newspaper, a number of smaller newspapers, six TV stations, Newsweek, cable systems in the south and midwest, an online publishing division, and Kaplan, Inc., which focuses on education.
"The media business has changed quite a lot over the past few years. We didn't have the internet in 1978, and were barely using computers. Computers have changed the workplace, and that includes the practice of law."
There isn't much Daniels would change about her life's work. "I'm in an ever-challenging and engaging position in a company I am proud to be associated with, and I enjoy what I do. If you enjoy what you do, you'll do it well."
Maud Mater also has tenure at the top, as executive vice president, general counsel and secretary for Freddie Mac. Mater joined the Fortune 50 financial institution in 1976 as assistant general counsel after working for the U.S. government for four years.
She was named general counsel in 1982. She reached where she is by "working harder, being (or at least trying to be) smarter, and by being in the right place at the right time." Becoming general counsel at a relatively young age meant that it was sometimes difficult to be taken seriously—but Mater hopes women general counsel have it somewhat easier today.
Mater, 54, is the general counsel of a large, highly visible public company and oversees a relatively large legal department of 140 employees, with 80 attorneys. But this was not always so. In 1982, when she became general counsel of Freddie Mac it was a very small, relatively invisible company with a very small legal department—and it was wholly controlled by the U.S. government. One of her many challenges has been to help transform Freddie Mac into what it is today—both legally and as a business entity. This transformation necessitated both comfort and competency in addressing change, complexity and risk, and Mater believes that these characteristics are essential for all successful general counsel.
The basic legal questions are simple, she says: "What does the company need today; how does the lawyer fulfill what is in the corporation's best interest; and what will the company need tomorrow?"
And the basic business questions also are simple: "What are the risks, how are they being managed, and how does the company make money?"
Mater believes general counsel are paid to know the law, the business, the people, and the external environment— and to integrate these disparate elements in the company's interest. And she also believes that the importance of a commitment to excellence cannot be overstated. "I think you have to be willing to push and not be satisfied with what you did yesterday—to be willing to come in the next day and try a different approach if it might produce a superior result. You can't rest on your laurels."
Mater credits her boss, Freddie Mac CEO Leland C. Brendsel, as being her most important mentor.
Catherine Lamboley, 51, vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of the Houston-based Shell Oil Company, taught school and worked in insurance before enrolling in law school, seeking an intellectual challenge. She interviewed with Shell her third year of law school, making the decision to go with a corporate department "because I didn't want to do any rainmaking."
Although she wasn't rainmaking, Lamboley quickly found out about the rigors of her new career. After she'd been at Shell for five years, "my boss told me he asked a client group if they would please agree to have a woman for their lawyer. Then he told me that I had better not make any mistakes. To me, it sounded like he was saying I had to be perfect."
So she worked night and day for the client, and yes, the client was satisfied. "But that was too much to ask for— perfection." That was the only time she ever seriously considered quitting Shell. Yet, that marked a transformation in Lamboley. She still held the highest professional standards, but on her own terms.
After 22 years at Shell, whose reported earnings for the year 2000 were $29.7 billion, Lamboley was promoted to the position of vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary, overseeing 73 attorneys.
Six years ago at a diversity conference, Lamboley realized that all of her career she had been behaving like a white male. She would read up on things that she knew male colleagues would want to talk about and try not to show emotion. "I was two people, and I wanted to change that." Instead of showing her warm social side with friends and family, and her cool professional persona at work, Lamboley's work and private selves melded.
This has been a key to success for the University of Texas Law School graduate. "Know who you are and what you stand for and work hard to learn your substantive legal work. Over time, you get experience, good judgment, and hopefully, wisdom. Also, know your environment and be politically aware."
All of the women noted that possessing integrity and instilling trust are indispensable to their jobs. If they make a promise, their clients, colleagues, and subordinates must know they will follow through.
Understanding how a business works is also crucial. Lamboley spent three years as vice president of Commercial Marketing and Services at a Shell company.
Lamboley recalls a business leader saying that he will know he's succeeded when his staff run red lights to get to work, instead of to get away from work.
"That's the kind of place I want to create," explains Lamboley. "Challenging work, excellence not only in work quality, but in behavior, and a sense of community where we support each other and celebrate each others' successes."
MCCA celebrates these four outstanding women role models!
Hope E. Ferguson is a freelance writer and reporter who works in public relations for the State University of New York.
From the March 2002 issue of Diversity & The Bar®