Chapter Events: Creating an Effective Women’s Initiative (Luncheon, June 19, 2014)

by Brandie Knox on September 18, 2014

Brandie Knox Brandie Knox

A capacity crowd of women – and men – enthusiastically filled the room to learn about “Creating an Effective Women’s Initiative” at the Metro New York chapter’s monthly luncheon on June 19 at Cooley LLP. The program was the first one the chapter had dedicated solely to the subject of female attorneys, a clear indication of the increasing attention firms are giving to help women develop their careers as lawyers.

Betiyan Tursi, national chair and co-founder of the Women In Law Empowerment Forum, moderated a distinguished panel that included:

  • Melissa McClenaghan Martin, Founder& President, M3 Strategic Alliances consultancy
  • Cara Edwards, Partner, DLA Piper
  • Lisa Bianculli Hutter, Regional Wealth Planning Manager, Wells Fargo Private Bank
  • Dawn Afanador, CMO, Gibbons PC

Our panelists (photo) focused on how to create effective substantive programs – not just social events – that can help female attorneys reach their full potential. A few key take-aways:

  • Gain buy-in. You only need to win over a few key firm leaders. Do not wait for full firm support. “Start small but powerful and grow from there.” —Cara Edwards
  • Involve men. Allow men at the firm to participate in programs to help gain their understanding and support. Inviting men to attend enriches the events. If closed sessions are needed for appropriate topics, then schedule accordingly.
  • Involve marketing. You need the marketing team to help strategize and support the day-to-day needs of the initiative.
  • Involve clients, friends of the firm and alums. Bringing strategic outsiders into your program will help make a strong business case for events. Find ways to add value for your clients by including them in your women’s initiative events. Don’t be afraid to ask clients what they are interested in hearing about. Ask them to bring a friend to events –often less daunting than attending events alone. Some of these guests are also future prospects.
  • Budget. Establish a budget for the program, rather than singular events. A single budget will avoid having to ask for money each time funding is needed for a particular event.
  • Measure success. Develop a method for tracking ROI. Generating revenue is sure to gain future buy-in. How has the program increased revenue? How many women are – or have moved into – management? Who’s been brought up through the ranks?
  • Don’t be afraid of change. Your program will need to change to accommodate for growth.
  • Win awards. Work to get included in lists and surveys for having a strong women’s program. Awards not only aid in gaining buy-in, but they also make the firm more competitive.
  • Make the advancement of women part of the culture. Weave your women’s initiative into the culture of the firm. Empower women. Invest in women at the firm, clients of the firm and friends of the firm.
  • Remember that women’s initiatives are firm initiatives!

Brandie Knox is Creative Director & Principal at knox design strategy. As a strategic design studio, knox design strategy focuses on professional services firms, with expertise in the legal industry. She can be reached at, followed on Twitter @knoxdesignnyc or visit the website (

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