Yesterday, FirstRain CEO Penny Herscher was part of a panel discussion at the Ark Women Legal Forum in San Francisco. Speaking to a room of about 100 women, she and her co-panelists, Patricia Gillette, Partner, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP (moderator); Kathi Lutton, Partner, Fish and Richardson; and Pamela Fulmer, Partner, Novak Druce Connolly Bove + Quigg LLP discussed how women are helping other women by forming “stiletto networks”—all-female groups to support each other professionally in a more safe and unthreatening environment.
The panel agreed that the most effective aspect of stiletto networks is that they are truly helpful to the women involved. They’re not a place to vent or complain; women come up with a concrete action plan and challenge each other intellectually as they navigate being leaders in the male-dominated fields of both Law and Tech. As Kathi stated at one point, “We interact with the world differently, and that’s OK. And it’s good to have a network of people to think through it.”
As Penny highlighted, it’s precisely for this reason that FirstRain has made a concerted effort to have a diverse leadership team: when you assemble a group of people with differing opinions and experiences, you end up being much more creative as a group—and more effective. As stiletto networks grow and empower the women involved, everyone—including businesses—benefits.
All of the panel discussion really boiled down to one idea, whether it’s women helping women or women interacting with men. Patricia said it perfectly—that empowering women is “about relationships—baby steps, and building relationships. It’s not going to happen overnight. You have to be in it for the long haul.”