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News Briefs—Latham Offers Cooking Lessons to Female Lawyers

Vivia Chen

April 22, 2012

I warned you that my reportage of happy news about women last week was an anomaly. Today, I'm back to my usual self—offering you news about women that's curious, annoying, and downright depressing.

GEadvertisementCirca1950s1. "It's wrong on so many levels." That's what one female lawyer at Latham & Watkins says about the firm's upcoming event for female lawyers in London. (Funny, it seems just like yesterday that I questioned whether women's initiatives are useless time-suckers.)

What's the offending event at Latham's U.K. office? A master class on "creative canapé making," reports The Lawyer.

Cooking classes at a law firm sound like jolly good fun, except that this one seems aimed only at female lawyers and is sponsored by the firm's women's initiatives group. As The Lawyer notes, Latham's own Web site touts that its "women enriching business" group was “designed to promote women in business, by creating broader networks and productive business relationships, and by attracting and investing in the long-term success of women.”

Hmm, could there be a hidden logic between making canapés and business? Is Latham delivering a clever retro-progressive message—like the way to your client's heart is through his stomach? I mean, if women can't master golf and cigar smoking, maybe their best bet for developing business is to go to the kitchen and whip up some delicious treats.

2. And there's always cleaning and serving. I know you know this only too well: Women still earn a fraction of what men do. (Quick refresher: Overall, women make 77 cents for each dollar a man earns; female lawyers do a bit better, earning 78 cents for each dollar a man does.)

But did you know that there are some professions where women actually outearn men? So, what are these lofty professions? Well, they include butlers, valets, house sitters, and shoe shiners. Women who work as personal care and service workers made $1.02 for every $1 their male colleagues did in 2010, according to Bloomberg Businessweek .

3. Women might make less, but they're cooler about their salaries. I don't want to end on a totally negative note, so I'll leave you with this curiosity: Men seem more defensive about their compensation. According to a survey by FIT, a Web site of recruiting-technology company Bullhorn, "26 percent of men but just 17 percent of women say their friends would feel badly for them if they knew how much money they really earned," reports Harvard Business Review.

HBR also notes: "Not only are women less ashamed of their salaries, they also report working longer days and working more on vacation than men, and they're less likely to take a sick day under false pretenses, the survey says."

The positive spin is that women tend to be more humble, harder-working, and more reliable. But does the survey also suggest something else—that women tend to work diligently, while getting shafted on the pay front?


Photo: GE ad, circa 1950's

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Interestingly enough, more male attorneys have attended my wok cooking classes than females! And quite contrary to common belief, attorneys have a great sense of humor. Because they lead extremely high pressured jobs, they find cooking a relaxing activity and anything that helps them save time, make cooking a creative and fun process instead of a chore is a huge bonus.

I am a woman. Let's not overreact to a fun women's event. People who are offended by this have very thin skin or just don't know how to have fun. I am sure the women planned it for themselves. We plan similiar events at our big firm all the time. It is for social networking reasons--not some plot to make women domestic.

I am an in-house attorney and one of our events for our summer associates was a cooking class. We cooked, ate, drank wine and had a great time. It was open to all and was very well attended by both males and females.

Maybe the survey women tend to work diligently, while getting shafted on the pay front. The reality is another story.

Women also report that guys do far fewer hours of housework than guys actually do. I would submit that what is really happening is that women tend to lie more on surveys.

The reason more guys say their friends would feel sorry for them if they knew what they made is because of societal double-standards propogated by women that expect guys to make more money than women.

Good for Latham for doing something that their female associates are wanting to do, rather than trying to cram a particular philosophy down their throats. Are the women supposed to be forced to go fishing or tour a military base, in order to pretend that they like that kind of stuff?

Who the heck even has the time to go to a canape making class? I dread having to take a lunch with a colleague let alone a firm sponsored enrichment class. And on the enrichment, perhaps a class on how to make wine would have been more appropriate...so the women can drown their sorrows of knowing they are underpaid, under appreciated, and clearly, misunderstood.

We had a similar event at my former BigLaw firm. Actually, our marketing people asked inhouse female lawyers what they would be interested in doing for an event, and cooking lessons was one of the biggest areas of interest. Don't assume the worst --lawfirms won't shell out the bucks unless there is some evidence to support the business rationale for the event. Women do like certain things --like spas and cooking. Now that I'm in house, I would totally go to this. . . .

This is hilarious! It's a cultural thing - it would never fly in the U.S. And who wants to make canapes, anyways?

What's the fuss? What real man dons a pinnie except to build golf clubs?

You aren't making this up, are you? Unless they have an upcoming mass meeting with the London Restaurant Association for succession planning, this has to be a joke.

What's next month's seminar? Martini 101 and how to wear pearls?

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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