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10 Words of Wisdom from Inspiring Female General Counsel

From the gender pay gap to reentry to the workforce after maternity leave, women face several hurdles in the workforce. However, empowered women empower women, especially if they work in the C-suite. In honor of International Women’s Month this March, ACC Docket gleaned the most impactful quotes from our interviews with female general counsel to inspire women at any stage of their career.

1. Secure a seat at the table 

“If you’re in a company, particularly a public company, where [general counsel] don’t have a seat at the table, that’s a very significant red flag.” 

– Lucy Fato, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at AIG

2. Mind your perception 

“As leaders, it really doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. What matters is how the other person perceives you, how you’re doing, or what your position is.” 

– Caroline Herzog, General Counsel at Arm Limited

3. Be kind 

“We have to take care of each other, we have to take care of ourselves, and we have to take care of our families — even if we feel like we’re being pulled in many different directions.” 

– Rena Reiss, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at Marriott International

4. Focus on the message 

“When you are presented with an issue, look at the message and provide your response rather than looking at the messenger. Don’t color your advice or your reaction based on who’s saying it but focus on what’s being said.” 

– Inderpreet Sawhney, Group General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at Infosys

5. Be the navigator, not the captain

“Your job is not to manage the company. It’s to provide oversight and strategic direction.” 

– Leslie Thorton, Retired Senior Vice President and Merger Transition Counsel at WGL Holdings and Washington Gas Light Company

6. Work the shift 

“I spend time in [Macy's] stores. My team spends time in stores. And as a matter of fact, this holiday, all of my lawyers did at least one shift. When you spend time in the stores, I think you do your job better — you understand how busy folks are, how they’re on their feet all day.” 

– Elisa Garcia, Chief Legal Officer at Macy’s

7. Take a stand 

“You should stand up when everyone else is sitting down, particularly on matters of significance.” 

– Sara L. Hall, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel at American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC)

8. Hire diverse talent 

“You realize that every person has his or her motivations, and desires, and reasons why they’re doing things. It’s good to give them room to build upon that on their own and to accept the diversity of approach and style ... If you only hire people that are like you, or have similar life experiences and similar exposures, you’re not going to find the best answer.” 

– Nishat Ruiter, General Counsel at TED Conferences, LLC

9. Be inclusive 

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” 

– Ritva Sotamaa, Chief Legal Officer at Unilever 

10. Never stop learning 

"Financial regulation is fast-changing. It needs to be constantly studied. That's what drives me to keep studying to become an expert." 

– Jieun Lee, CEO at Demo Day and former General Counsel at Roof Funding 

About the Author

Karmen Fox is the web content editor of ACC Docket.

The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.