First Round: Parents and Partners

Being a working mother in the legal world has always been a tricky juggling act. Corporate lawyers typically put in 60- to 70-hour working weeks, and likely more if they're busy drafting limited partnership agreements or working out the kinks of a complicated deal.

So First Round was cheered to read about recent developments taking place in Washington DC where two lawyers – both mothers – are trying to beat their industry's work/life balance benchmark. Rebecca Gellar and Maria Simon run the Gellar Law Group, a firm that doesn't have a permanent office, but rather rents space daily or hourly for meetings as needed. All six of its female employees spend most of the week working remotely so that they also have time during the day to spend with their young children.

The unconventional set-up appears to be working pretty well. The firm is successful and was recently featured in The New York Times. Gellar and Simon appear to have hit on a way to circumvent the prevailing workaholic culture of their industry without having to sacrifice the personal for the professional (or vice versa).

To First Round, it would appear that private equity has some way to go to start comparing itself to such a bright initiative. However, it may just be starting to take steps in the right direction. Recently the Blackstone Group said that it would be extending its maternity leave policy to 16 weeks of paid leave, so as to make itself more of an employer of choice for female workers. Most competitors offer 12 weeks. In a press release last month, it declared: “The financial services industry has historically struggled to recruit and retain women, but by instituting robust policies that support working mothers and all employees as they integrate their work and family responsibilities, we hope to help make asset management a more attractive industry for women. Our hardworking employees balance incredibly active lives, and Blackstone is proud to support important priorities both in the workplace and at home.”

Now, while First Round is struggling to see a women-led, hot-desking firm like Gellar Law Group landing any time soon in private equity, it is quietly impressed by the move so it salutes Blackstone on what must surely be an important step in an encouraging direction.