September 11, 2014

From The Wall Street Journal and republished in The Daily Bankruptcy News

Recently, a number of our colleagues were asked to comment on the gender gap in the restructuring field. Not surprisingly, a majority of the authors were male and all have recognized that the restructuring industry is male-dominated, a fact we do not debate. Where we differ is with those who have opined that the gender gap persists because women have resigned themselves to not taking time away from their families or are incapable of managing a balance between the emergency nature of the restructuring practice and family commitments.

At its peak, a restructuring career can mean a 24/7 commitment to accommodate emergency client needs. While inconvenient for everyone involved, the prospect of forgoing involvement in a potentially career-defining case is unimaginable—even for women.

As a female restructuring professional, it is not unusual to be the only woman in a room full of men. Pity the male restructuring professional who will never experience the thrill of being the sole woman who makes a difference in the case.

All of us, men and women alike, have commitments to our jobs and our families. The goal is to employ ways to balance those commitments, seek help to accomplish those goals and recognize that there will be days where nothing goes smoothly. That is where a firm can assist and support its employees to prioritize what is important for the individual and firm growth.

Firms must be flexible and recognize that a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy does not work for all attorneys. Not everyone has the capacity to actively support and participate in the gamut of restructuring organizations available to our industry. Not everyone is able to regularly speak and write on topics of interest to our industry. Notwithstanding, our field is broad enough that there are ample and diverse opportunities for everyone to market themselves, and firms need to promote that.

At Polsinelli, like many other Big Law firms, we are fortunate in that the restructuring professionals within our firm are a close-knit group who look out for one another (regardless of gender) and are readily and willing to share the workload. Firms must foster this attitude and reward it. Firms can do this by making women’s initiatives a firm-wide focus; offering child care alternatives; upgrading and utilizing available technology; investing in the female workforce and supporting passion projects, including charitable ones; and above all, being flexible and creative.

While we might not be able to always “have it all,” we can’t imagine choosing a different career path and look forward to the days when we are not the lone female voice in the room.

Randye B. Soref and Shanti M. Katona are members of Polsinelli’s national bankruptcy and restructuring practice group.