Written by Corinne Garcia Tuesday, July 24 2012
Heather Giambra, Linda Joseph and Alicia Rood of SJA
At the Buffalo, N.Y.-based offices of Schröder, Joseph & Associates (SJA) — recently named the go-to law firm for employment law and litigation — there’s a flexibility built into the employee schedules that is rare in today’s workplaces. Basically, if your kid is sick, of course you should take off early. If you’re passionate about your volunteer position outside of work, by all means take the time to get there. If a daily work schedule from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. better suits your family situation, they will make that work.
And there are other things that differ greatly from traditional firms. When SJA hosts their office get-togethers, instead of golf outings, they often have spa days or wine tastings. They have a masseuse visit regularly to give employee massages. Most dress casually unless they are in court that day or have client meetings. When the firm’s founding partners, Linda Joseph and Ginger Schröder, are faced with big decisions involving the employees, they get everyone involved for a collaborative decision. And last, but certainly not least, SJA just happens to have an all-female staff, which probably has a lot to do with all that’s mentioned above.
Ginger Schröder of SJA
Joseph and Schröder each spent the first part of their careers working with large traditional law firms and had similar experiences.
“As women, our ability to be central to the decision-making process was limited in that setting,” Joseph explains.
Schröder concurs, “A lot of larger law firms have a traditional mindset, with a lot of men in power, so it’s difficult to become part of the power structure. It wasn’t that we weren’t treated equally — I felt like I was given opportunities — but our sense of the world is different and wasn’t given a lot of credence.”
In 2000, they decided to go off on their own as equal partners.
“We are able to do things here that we could not do at large law firms,” Joseph says.
Some of the work arrangements that Joseph and Schröder have created within their firm are due to the freedom involved in owning their own small business. But a lot of it also has to do with the fact that the business is 100 percent powered by females.
“The flex time is very important for people who have multiple roles, and any woman in any household seems to wear many hats,” Schröder says.
Kristi Faulker and Sandy Sabean of WomenKind
In Sandy Sabean’s line of work, with a career in the creative side of advertising within many well-known firms, she has also experienced male dominated workplaces. In her field, only 3 percent of creative directors are female, and 85 percent of creative departments are made up of males. The irony that struck her was the fact that 85 percent of all goods and services in the country are purchased by women.
In 2008, together with her partner Kristi Faulkner, they launched the New York City-based Womenkind, described as a “marketing and communications company built by women to engage women the way women really want to be engaged.”
Although they do have a few males working on staff, as a female-run business, they have molded Womenkind into a workplace that aligns with a female lifestyle.
“I wanted this company to reflect everything the others were lacking,” Sabean says. “Your kids have a play, we understand - take the time. We allow for that to happen. That’s different when you have males at the top of the pyramid. They can’t relate.”
Along with work/life balance and flexibility, similar to that of SJA, the Womenkind headquarters is a place where ideas are readily shared and communication is key.
“We tend to nurture each other instead of competing,” Sabean says, explaining that in some creative agencies people are scared to share their ideas in fear of them being stolen. “Business used to be very harsh with a lot of yelling,” she says. “Men want to win; women want to collaborate.”
Gabriela Siegel of Atlanta Women's Obstetrics and Gynecology
Female collaboration is also quite evident at the women-run Atlanta Women’s Obstetrics and Gynecology, explains Gabriela Siegel, M.D. With the tagline “Women Proudly Caring for Women,” the six doctors, working as equal partners, often help each other and work as a team.
“We function in a good environment of teamwork where we have a lot of give and take,” Siegel explains. “If I’m seeing a patient and debating a health issue, we usually run it by each other.”
Similar to SJA and Womenkind, Siegel describes a work atmosphere where importance is placed on a balanced life.
“We have what we call a lifestyle practice, and preserving our private time is important to us,” she says. “I think that with traditional practices, male physicians had wives to take care of their children and houses. We all do that along with our work, so it shapes our practice and the decisions we make.”
There are common themes that emerge from these three female-oriented businesses that could, perhaps, be beneficial in a male-oriented business setting. One is the value placed on lifestyle and family, while still maintaining strong work ethic. With men becoming more involved in kids, home and family life, they could benefit from this flexibility as well. Second is a nurturing team-like atmosphere as opposed to a competitive one.
The Atlanta Women's Obstetrics and Gynecology team
“Competition is good to a certain extent,” Sabean says, “but when it’s too competitive and people are driven to outdo one another, it gets in the way of effective teamwork.”
This collaborative teamwork coupled with flexibility seems to have the makings for a very successful, rewarding workplace with loyal, happy employees.
“Flexibility doesn’t detract from success, professionalism or the level of service we provide to our clients,” Joseph explains. “In our experience, it’s been just the opposite; the things we do make for a very loyal and motivated staff.”
Become further inspired by these women-run businesses:
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The face of the leading office furniture company in the Southeast doesn’t have a background in retail management, interior design or even fashion merchandising. Discover how Karen Hughes uses her accounting background to lead Corporate Environments, a multi-million dollar company.
Cars are not just a man's favorite toy. Irma Elder proved just that as she became the sole proprietor of her own car dealership - an enterprise she has grown to be worth $450 million.
Corinne Garcia is a freelance writer and editor living with her husband and two young boys in Bozeman, Mont. She has also written for Women’s Adventure, Christian Science Monitor, Northwest Travel, Pregnancy, Fit Pregnancy and Fit Parent.