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The technology startup world is known for being male-dominated. A survey by TechCrunch found that in 2014, only 18 percent of startups had a female founder, up from less than 10 percent in 2009. One law firm is trying to change that -- and not by filing a series of gender discrimination lawsuits, either.
Perkins Coie announced this week that it would discount its services 15 percent for startups that have a woman in a senior executive position. The Seattle-based firm's discount is part good deed, part marketing stunt. And it could possibly land them the next Google as a client. Should you follow suit?
Perkins Coie has more than 1,000 attorneys scattered across 19 offices, including in tech hubs like Palo Alto, San Francisco, and its home office in Seattle. To "help women business leaders maximize their company's capital," and to bring in some extra tech business at the same time, the firm recently announced its Le(a)dBetter initiative.
Yes, that's Le(a)dBetter, with the a in parenthesis. It's a horrible dual reference to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 and the desire to see more women in leadership roles. (And perhaps the client leads they expect the initiative to generate.) Despite the horrible name, it sounds like a great program.
In addition to the discounts, the Le(a)dBetter program will provide participants with networking opportunities and educational seminars meant to enhance women executives' leadership and business skills.
The Le(a)dBetter program decided to focus on startups in order to encourage new companies and their investors "to establish and value a culture of inclusion and gender equality from day one."
Programs like Perkins Coie's are worthy of imitation for a number of reasons. First, promoting and rewarding gender equity is itself a worthwhile endeavor. (The legal industry could use some help in this as well, as women are widely underrepresented in leadership positions.)
Focusing on startups is a wise approach as well. These companies may not generate the same billings as Microsoft or Uber, but they could one day. A 15 percent discount at their founding could result in a long lasting and lucrative client relationship.
If you're looking for a gimmick, Perkins Coie's isn't a bad one to pick up.
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