When a Male Lawyer Shut Her Down, This Woman Built a Company to Fight Back

When a Male Lawyer Shut Her Down, This Woman Built a Company to Fight Back

By Sienna Babb, Founder, WMN / WRK

“Take what they’ve offered you, hope they don’t offer you less and stop causing issues.”

That was the advice I got from a male lawyer. It was December 2016 and only a few weeks prior I had found out that the new president of my division had hired a man to take my job. I was leading business development at the time for a new division within a big tech company and had only been in my role for a little over three months when major organizational changes started happening.

Once I found out, I was shortly thereafter told that my employment agreement would be changing. My title would change, I would be paid significantly less and I would only get my annual bonus (a bonus I had fought hard for when I took the job) if I signed this new agreement. To add insult to injury, I had to stick around for a certain number of years just to earn that bonus. I felt like I had been punched in the face.

While there were other changes happening in my division, no one else was getting a new employment agreement that included a title and compensation adjustment – just me. I also happened to be the most senior woman in the division by a long shot.  It was hard to not take this change personally and to feel like in a way, my gender played a part.

I am a woman in my mid-thirties but unfortunately for me, look like I’m in my early 20s. I know what you are thinking – how can I complain about this?  I get it but in the business world, looking young is not an advantage; especially not for women working in male dominated industries. I’m also barely pushing 5’3”, which again did not work in my favor but whatever, I always tried to be assertive and articulate and felt like I was leaning way the f*@k in to compensate. My closet full of blazers helped.  

After the news from HR, it was pretty clear to me that I had the choice of accepting my fate, signing this new agreement or voluntarily leaving the company without any severance. 

I knew I needed a lawyer but I had no idea where to find one.

Turns out, it is actually really difficult.  Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many lawyers out there and I called and emailed employment lawyers until I was blue in the face. Only a few called me back.  “Do you want to sue your company,” they would ask.  I didn’t so they told me to look elsewhere.  It seemed crazy to me that I couldn’t find someone to help.

One of my friends, a guy, recommended I call his employment lawyer.  “This guy is a shark,” my friend said. He was the first attorney I could actually get on the phone to talk to me so I finally felt hopeful. After speaking with him however, I felt totally destroyed.

It was all I could do on the phone call to keep it together.  “Take what they’ve offered you, hope they don’t offer you less and stop causing issues,” was the closing advice he gave me at the end of a 30-minute call. I hung up and started balling. I felt hopeless.

About a week later, I happened to be getting a much-needed eyebrow wax and was lamenting about my situation to my aesthetician. She told me one of her clients was an employment lawyer and that I might as well give her a call.

This phone call changed my life.

I got on the phone with this employment attorney and told her about my situation. I said that I didn’t want to sue my company but I did want to figure out a resolution where I wasn’t forced to either sign a really crappy deal or leave. She told me that she doesn’t do litigation and specializes in working with clients like me who want to use negotiation tactics to improve the terms of an employment agreement or potentially pursue severance.

I finally felt like I had someone who not only believed me but supported me. My situation went from hopeless to hopeful. She was able to guide me through a strategic negotiation process with HR to get a better deal, get more money and significantly reduce the amount of time I needed to stay at the company to earn out that bonus.

It worked.

About six months later I left the company to start a service that would help women find trusted and vetted female attorneys because it shouldn’t be so difficult to find support. I used the money I saved from that bonus to kickstart my company in October 2017 and WMN / WRK was born.

Once we opened our doors, women started reaching out in need of attorneys. We had women that were starting businesses and women going through employment situations contact us from all over the country.  The stories we’ve heard have been difficult but sadly, not surprising.

On the business side, many women told us that they had initial meetings with male lawyers who made them feel “small”, “less than”, “that their idea was stupid” or as one woman told us, a “hobby”.  It made us angry but it also made us more determined.

We’ve curated a network of female attorneys who work almost exclusively with women, who come with glowing recommendations from women that have been their clients and are committed to helping women thrive. Whether you’re a solopreneur who is bootstrapping her business or a VC-backed start-up, women deserve to work with attorneys who are committed to going above and beyond and who put relationships first.

Women want to work with other women and we can’t blame them.  If we are going to pay for professional services, like an attorney, CPA or doctor, we deserve to work with someone who cares about us.  We don’t deserve to be belittled, our pain is real and we sure as hell don’t need to work with condescending professionals who will take our money but provide inferior service because we are women.

Early this year WMN / WRK made the decision to expand into the finance and health and wellness verticals based off of user demand. You don’t have time to search around and unless you want to throw your money away, you need to work with someone who has been vetted by a team of women so you know they are experienced, supportive and want to help women succeed, be healthy and thrive.  

You don’t need to feel hopeless and you don’t need to waste time searching and asking around for recommendations. Just reach out to WMN / WRK and we will connect you with the right professionals for your situation. Trust us, we’ve got your back.

WMN / WRK is a service that connects busy women with vetted and trusted female legal, finance and health professionals who are committed to helping women thrive.

04 Nov 2018

By Sienna Babb