Company: FordHarrison LLP
Innovation: FordHarrison’s Women Leaders Forum
Award Recognition: Honorable Mention

In 2012, under Dawn Siler-Nixon’s leadership, FordHarrison hosted its first Women Leaders Forum in Atlanta, where a pilot group of female participants examined the dilemma of “having it all” and its accompanying challenges.

The participants included FordHarrison’s women partners and leaders from top corporations, who discussed key issues related to gender equity in the workplace. Some of the participants included Rhonda Taylor, vice president, assistant general counsel of Dollar General; Lori McLaughlin, senior vice president and general counsel for The Devereux Foundation; Gina Donald, counsel for Tech Data; and Nicole Porter, general counsel for UT-Battelle, LLC.

The focus of the forum was to bring together a diverse mix of successful women leaders, in an open and confidential setting, who, through the discussion of topics relevant to today’s issues, will educate, inspire, and encourage women to reflect on their own goals and statuses.

FordHarrison brought in consultant Angela Vallot, co-founder of VallotKarp, to facilitate the event. She opened the forum by discussing several recent and controversial articles addressing the issues surrounding having it all.

The women discussed the issues raised in the articles and their own personal experiences during a networking luncheon, followed by a panel discussion, moderated by Vallot. The discussion covered topics of interest in which the panelists shared their personal and professional perspectives on questions designed to elicit valuable information. The intimate setting helped initiate roundtable discussions that occurred at individual tables.

FordHarrison partners were very impressed at how frank and honest the women were in sharing their personal thoughts, concerns, struggles, and successes. In the evening, a dinner provided the setting for informal discussions on how to use the knowledge gained throughout the day and how to make change occur. After the event, FordHarrison provided the forum participants with an overview of the concerns raises, solutions voiced, and challenges posited.

Many of the participants indicated that the Women Leaders Forum was a great success. “I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and don’t remember ever attending anything like it,” commented Nicole Porter. “It felt almost self-indulgent, which is good! It also caused me to reexamine work/life balance challenges and my long-held opinions,” added Porter.