Sidley joins in the global celebration of Women’s History Month throughout March—a special time to honor and commemorate women’s contributions in history. Women’s History Month began in 1978 as a local “Women’s History Week” celebration in Santa Rosa, California, and soon spread to other communities around the world. The National Women’s History Alliance successfully lobbied for national recognition, and in 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring National Women’s History Week. Congress passed Public Law 100-9 in 1987 designating March as “Women’s History Month;” since 1995, it has been designated by annual Presidential proclamation.
As part of our celebration, we proudly highlight Sidley’s own women leaders in our Illuminating Excellence profile series. We invite you to learn more about our firm’s exceptional women leaders as they share memorable career highlights and the inspiring words they live by.
Sidley has long provided unique opportunities for women in the legal profession, embracing uniqueness in background, experience and viewpoints for a greater wellspring of talent. This credo has led Sidley to become both a successful global law firm and a professional services workplace where women thrive. At Sidley, women have cultivated careers, challenged their legal skills, risen to partnership, developed into leaders as well as role models, and become inspirations for future generations.
Led by women partners in our each of our U.S. offices, as well as our UK and Asia-Pacific offices, SidleyWomen pursues strategies to maximize the firm’s success in retaining women lawyers, promoting women associates to partnership, and promoting women partners to positions of authority and power within the firm. This effort has produced measurable results. Today, 29% of our partners are women, as are 51% of committee chairs, 25% of practice group heads, 30% of practice area team leaders, 38% of the Executive Committee, and 38% of the Management Committee.*
*firmwide data as of January 31, 2023
Women in Leadership: Fostering Personal and Professional Growth
Our passion for expanding horizons for women in the firm, our clients and the business community at large inspired Sidley’s Women in Leadership series, which promotes networking for women, including the firm’s lawyers, in-house counsel and other professionals. Through a mix of engaging informal networking gatherings and business presentations, these events give women lawyers the opportunity to build relationships and develop the skills essential for success.
SidleyWomen hosted a Women in Leadership event in Chicago on January 19 facilitated by Second City Works, the business-to-business training side of the iconic Second City theatre and improvisational school. Sidley women, alumnae, clients and friends of the firm learned to use various improvisational exercises to improve their ability to read a room, present themselves authentically and “own” their professional persona.
Women in Leadership events have featured accomplished women from many walks of life, including:
Michelle Robinson Obama, Vice President for Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Hospital (former First Lady of the United States)
Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno
ACLU President Nadine Strossen
Shareholder activist Nell Minow
Merrill Lynch General Counsel Rosemary Berkery
National Public Radio legal correspondent Nina Totenberg
SidleyWomen also hosts a variety of social events and receptions in each of the firm’s offices, bringing women lawyers from all areas of the firm together for critical networking opportunities:
Chicago events have included an interactive poker lesson and tournament that discussed how to apply poker principals in business contexts, a reception at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, and a backstage look at the acclaimed “Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” exhibit at the Field Museum.
In Los Angeles, women lawyers have held Lee National Denim Days and supported an office-wide team for the Revlon Run/Walk to raise money for the fight against breast cancer, as well as hosted a reception to ring in the New Year.
New York events have included a discussion about flex-time, tours of prominent New York art galleries, and participation in community projects such as the Year of Giving Back, in conjunction with New York Cares. In a 2011 event organized with NY Cares to benefit the Partnership for Inner-City Education, volunteers made 500 kits to help students be better prepared for school. Also in 2011, the New York Committee on Retention and Promotion of Women, now known as SidleyWomen, hosted its first women alumnae cocktail reception in partnership with Dress for Success, a nonprofit organization that provides professional clothing, career counseling and skills training to disadvantaged women in over 75 cities worldwide. In addition, the reception launched the New York office's weeklong clothing drive, which collected over 200 articles of clothing to donate to Dress for Success.
Among other things, our San Francisco women lawyers have hosted a champagne tasting to benefit Dress for Success.
Washington, D.C. events have included programs on “what I know now that I wish I knew when I started practicing,” rainmaking, maternity leave, and marketing and practice development, as well as bi-annual women’s dinners hosted at a Committee member’s home.
SidleyWomen presentations are made regularly at firm events such as:
The New Associate Orientation, designed to provide information to get associates off to a good start.
Seminars for junior women lawyers that provide tips for success and answer common questions.
The annual Mid-Level Associates Conference held each year for all fifth-year associates. In addition to a formal presentation, women attendees meet for dinner with women partners to discuss positioning for promotion to partnership.
The Women Partners' Retreat, which provides career development and networking opportunities for women partners and senior counsel.
In addition to programs focused on professional success, SidleyWomen sponsors presentations on personal success, including business development and financial planning seminars. Sidley’s women lawyers are also active in the National Association of Women Lawyers and local bar.
Sidley is a forerunner in the development of family-friendly policies and programs that benefit both male and female lawyers. Sidley’s work/life initiatives include:
Reduced Hours Policy: The firm recognizes the value of and strongly supports reduced work schedules for lawyers in appropriate circumstances. Any Sidley lawyer may work a reduced schedule for proportional compensation. Sidley’s reduced-hours policy allows lawyers--women and men--–to meet a percentage of the time commitment expected of full-time lawyers while remaining on partnership track and retaining benefits and bonus eligibility. In 2011, 16 percent of our women lawyers worked reduced schedules. In the last four years, seven associates were elevated to partnership while working reduced hours.
Parental Leave: Associates who act as primary caregivers may take 18 weeks of compensated parental leave in conjunction with the birth of a child. Ten weeks of compensated parental leave are provided to male or female primary caregivers of adopted children and four weeks of compensated parental leave are available for male or female non-primary caregivers.
Childcare: The firm provides subsidized emergency and backup child care.
Lactation Facilities: Fully-equipped private work rooms are available for nursing mothers. These rooms also house a library of parenting books and infants’ and children’s clothing exchanges.
Practical Resources: The firm holds periodic seminars on hiring child care and elder care providers.
Sidley’s women lawyers understand the importance of giving back to the community.
Sidley’s New York Sidley’s New York office hosted a “SidleyWomen” Evening of Service in partnership with New York Cares and Sheltering Arms. More than 100 women clients, friends of the firm, Sidley lawyers and summer associates assembled summer reading kits for underserved school children.
The firm’s award-winning pro bono work includes significant involvement in and commitment to organizations dedicated to improving the lives of women and children. These organizations include:
Her Justice: Sidley is a law firm partner of New York-based Her Justice, a nonprofit group that provides free legal services, in the areas of matrimonial and family law, to low-income, underserved and abused women in the metropolitan area.
Chicago Public Schools: Sidley has a long history of supporting the Chicago Public Schools, including a 25-year relationship with the firm’s adopted Kanoon Magnet Elementary School. Nearly all of the children qualify for free lunch and many start school without basic school supplies. Sidley’s support has enabled Kanoon to obtain essential teaching aids, art supplies and computers. Sidley has also held mock trials, field trips and hosted many other activities at the school.
The Alliance for Children’s Rights in Los Angeles: This group seeks to protect the rights and futures of abused and impoverished children
Dress for Success: This worldwide organization fosters economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire and career development services
Center for Family Representation: This New York-based group assists families in poverty and crisis
Sidley regularly handles pro bono cases involving women’s issues and has represented the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The firm also has an active asylum assistance practice, with more than 100 Sidley lawyers. The firm also represents juvenile immigrants who have been abused, abandoned or neglected by their parents or legal guardians and are seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status--petitioning for lawful residency under the VAWA. Sidley also assists those seeking U visas and battered spouse waivers.
In addition, each of the offices supports and participates in local community service projects at various charities, providing ample opportunities for lawyers to “give back” on an individual level.
Working Mother named Sidley as one of the 2020 “Best Law Firms for Women.” This annual list highlights law firms’ efforts and successes in recruiting, retaining, and promoting women lawyers. Selection criteria is reflected in a rigorous application process that examines factors including female lawyer representation, schedule flexibility, paid time off, parental leave, and the development and retention of women. This is the 12th year that Sidley has been included on the list.
Sidley was recognized by Yale Law Women as one of their "Top Ten Family Friendly Firms," a list of law firms that are leaders in developing and practicing family friendly policies. Sidley is one of four law firms to appear on the 2009, 2010 and 2011 lists.
Sidley was named to the Women in Law Empowerment Forum’s (WILEF) inaugural list of law firms with Gold Standard Certification--a designation for firms that integrate women lawyers into top leadership positions. In 2019, Sidley received Gold Standard Certification for the eighth time.
Sidley received the inMotion Inc. 2011 and 2009 Commitment to Justice Award and a special Legal Team Award for Sidley’s 2004–2009 Sidley Externship Program.
In recognition of our firmwide diversity initiative, Sidley is one of only three law firms to receive the Catalyst Award given by Catalyst, the leading research and advisory organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women and business.
Sidley participates in a number of initiatives committed to achieving specific and recognizable goals with respect to diversity, including:
Signatory, Chicago Bar Association’s “Call to Action” on Women’s Leadership in the Legal Profession
Signatory, Association of the Bar of the City of New York “Statement of Diversity Principles”
Signatory, Los Angeles County Bar Association’s 2005 Statement on Diversity Goals and Principles
Founding member, the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR), an initiative of the Center for Worklife Law at University of California Hastings College of Law
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