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Professionalism course helps women lawyers negotiate pay, benefits

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Recently, an attorney friend of Magie Ozarowski’s was leaving government service and taking a job, for the first time, in private practice.

“She had an offer, but she didn’t know how to go about figuring out what is normal pay for her level in a big firm in Florida,” recounted Ozarowski, deputy general counsel for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “She asked me if I knew, and I didn’t.”

From that request came the recent free CLE from the Bar’s Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism, intended to help women lawyers figure out their economic worth and negotiate salaries and benefits.

Ozarowski, the chair of the Standing Committee on Professionalism’s workgroup on gender bias, said when she reached out to colleagues to get information for her friend, she had difficulty getting reliable data.

Some people weren’t comfortable talking about compensation and some firms have policies against members discussing pay and benefits. She said Center Director Rebecca Bandy suggested it would make a good CLE topic, so Ozarowski set about to put together a program not just about pay, but also why “women don’t negotiate on behalf of themselves and what do we do about that.”

Lingering gender bias and sexism are factors, she said, as well resulting behaviors.

“Women, when they ask in a way that is commensurate in a way that men ask in terms of knowing their own worth, believe that will be viewed as negative or aggressive,” Ozarowski said. “When they negotiate on behalf of others, that is not a thing they worry about. They are being zealous advocates for their clients. But there are a lot of societal pressures that prevent them from being zealous advocates on behalf of themselves.”

Ozarowski, the moderator for the program, said the CLE starts with Patricia Sigman, a board-certified labor and employment attorney, who discusses the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

“She basically gives an overarching umbrella explanation of what these two protections are and what they do,” she said. That includes “what’s the baseline for protection for women generally but also in the legal profession.”

Florida State University College of Law Professor Erin Ryan, Ozarowski said, “talks about underlying stereotypes and pressures that women feel that wrongly or rightly basically dissuade women from negotiating their salaries.

“Her part of the presentation was answering the question of why women don’t act when it comes to thier salary and other things that are important to them in the context of their work life,” including academic research and studies of those areas.

Kimberly Sands, a mediator and principal partner with Upchurch Watson White & Max, discussed “the skills for successfully negotiating from a larger perspective as well as the common pitfalls,” Ozarowski said.

Finally, Tiffany Henson, a lawyer and senior executive recruiter with Parker + Lynch Legal, talked about negotiating salary and benefits.

“A striking thing to me about her presentation is she said she’s very good at negotiating for other people, but she really — when she was looking for a job — wasn’t very good about negotiating for herself,” Ozarowski said.

The CLE includes ways to deal with that, she said.

The free CLE, which also includes a podcast series, Never Contemplated, can be found on the center’s CLE page.

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