By the Women’s Initiative Committees of Epstein Becker Green and Citrin Cooperman & Company

The question is often asked as to whether women’s initiative groups in the workplace have any true impact in terms of helping to advance women’s careers, serving to aid in the retention of women in the workplace or assisting in professional and business development. In a June 2013 American Bar Association Journal article, the question was asked again: “Do Women’s Initiatives Work?” Statistically, despite numerous strides, women continue to grapple with many hurdles to career advancement. That being said, where would we be without Women’s Initiatives?

In an effort to share ideas across professional service firms, on August 8, 2013, members of the Women’s Initiative Committee of Epstein Becker Green explored this question with the Women’s Initiative Committee of Citrin Cooperman. The catalyst for the meeting was Danielle Russo, a Manager in the Audit Department with Citrin Cooperman who reached out through LinkedIn to Michelle Capezza, a Member of the Employee Benefits practice with Epstein Becker Green, to see if she would be interested in meeting for lunch to network and discuss Women’s Initiatives. Following that lunch, with the support of both firms, a roundtable lunch discussion was planned to include the firms’ respective Women’s Initiative Committee members so they could explore the evolution of the Women’s Initiatives in their respective firms, the many accomplishments, and the work that lies ahead. We share with you the highlights of what we learned from this discussion:

  • Women’s Initiatives grow and evolve at different paces depending on the organizational culture
  • Women’s Initiatives can serve to create opportunities for women to learn professional skills to assist in career advancement, develop networks to connect and grow as professionals, and bring attention to important issues
  • Organizations that want to establish or grow their Women’s Initiatives should have a mission statement and business plan
  • The members of the Women’s Initiatives should:
  • Determine how the Women’s Initiative plays an integral role in the organization’s business and can support the needs of the business
  • Determine whether the focus of the group will be on external networking, internal development of women, or a balanced approach of both
  • Refine the focus, as needed
  • Women approach business development and work uniquely – Women’s Initiatives should try to capitalize on these talents for the good of the organization
  • It is helpful to carefully track business development leads and new business generation that result from Women’s Initiatives efforts
  • In order to obtain support and funding, a business plan should be presented to firm management
  • Programs and events should be in synch with the mission statement of the Women’s Initiative program
  • It is helpful to market the Women’s Initiative externally, but also internally to gain organizational awareness and support
  • Design networking events that busy career women would be interested in attending. Our firms have each sponsored various types of events including wine tastings, cooking classes, fashion events, golf clinics, and guest speakers/panel discussions
  • Design internal events to complement or lead professional development efforts of the organization
  • Consider organizational culture and determine whether Women’s Initiative can aid in development of, or bringing attention to, important workplace policies such as flexible work arrangements, maternity and paternity policies
  • Consider reaching out to other Women’s Initiative groups to share ideas, accomplishments, hurdles and brainstorm how to keep moving forward (like we did!)

At Epstein Becker Green, our efforts are achieving notable results. For example, the firm:

  • Received a 2013 Gold Standard Certification from the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (this designation recognizes law firms that have successfully integrated and promoted a large percentage of their equity women partners to top leadership and management positions within their organizations)
  • Ranked among the top “Best Law Firms for Women” by Working Mother & Flex-Time Lawyers for 2012, receiving recognition in the following categories: leadership, compensation, and advancement of women; development and retention of women; flex-time; and time off and leaves
  • Ranked fifth on the MultiCultural Law magazine’s 2012 “Top Law Firms for Women” list
  • Ranked as one of the top 10 law firms for female partners, in a 2012 survey conducted by Law360
  • Was one of 23 law firms listed as “The Best” for women’s advancement in a 2010 survey conducted by the Project for Attorney Retention
  • Placed in the top 20 in The National Law Journal’s most recent ranking of the 250 largest U.S. law firms by number of women partners
  • Ranked eighth in the nation among the 200 largest firms for its percentage of women attorneys by The American Lawyer’s most recent “Women in Law Firms” study

Notable achievements at Citrin Cooperman include:

  • Currently ranked 25th overall and 7th among Mid-Atlantic firms – Accounting Today’s Top 100 Firms
  • Currently ranked 25th overall – Inside Public Accounting’s Top 100 Firms
  • Best Accounting Firms to Work For – Accounting Today
  • Best Places to Work in CT – Hartford Business Journal
  • Best Places to Work in NYC – Crain’s New York Business
  • Best Places to Work in PA – Best Companies Group
  • Best Places to Work in NJ – NJBIZ
  • Future 50 – Philadelphia SmartCEO

The roundtable discussion between the two firms elicited numerous ideas for future growth. “Women’s Initiatives play an important role in organizations, providing visibility and a voice to career women and avenues to career progression that might not otherwise be available,” remarked Michelle Capezza of Epstein Becker Green. “Women’s Initiative groups not only help women by providing a clear roadmap of how to achieve their career goals, but also help motivate them when they otherwise believe these goals can’t be achieved. By having this networking lunch, we realized that the challenges and accomplishments in two different professions are inherently similar. And every idea shared will create positive results,” said Elaine Papadopoulos, CPA, of Citrin Cooperman.

The opportunities that Women’s Initiatives create are limitless. Women are natural connectors and Women’s Initiatives can provide the forum for women to reach their professional potential. The Women’s Initiatives at Epstein Becker Green and Citrin Cooperman would be happy to speak to you further about establishing or growing the Women’s Initiative in your organization.

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