Spring/Summer 2018

Latham’s Leading Women Series Kicks Off with Microsoft VP Carolyn Frantz, ’00

Prior to the Leading Women talk, Fisher and Frantz sat down with the Law Quadrangle to reflect on opportunities and challenges for women in the legal profession. View the discussion.

Carolyn Frantz speaking at Latham’s Leading Women Series
Carolyn Frantz

Just because you can’t see the glass ceiling doesn’t mean it is nonexistent, Carolyn Frantz, ’00, told a packed room of Michigan Law students at the inaugural Leading Women talk in February. Sponsored by Latham & Watkins LLP, the series profiles Michigan Law alumni who are leaders in business.

“When I attended Michigan, I didn’t join the Women Law Students Association because I was adamant that I was a law student, not a woman law student,” said Frantz, who is vice president, deputy general counsel, and corporate secretary at Microsoft Corp. “When I entered the workforce, I assumed that because I was doing great, it must mean that gender discrimination didn’t exist.”

Frantz was introduced by Latham Vice Chair Ora Fisher, ’91, who shared her own story of working on Wall Street in the 1980s—a conservative, male-dominated atmosphere where she was expected to dress like a man. Today, Fisher noted, women still must struggle to balance being authentic and projecting the image that clients expect. 

“You’re being hired by clients to handle their problem, so you need to show that you are strong and confident,” said Fisher, who is based in Latham’s Menlo Park, California, office. “You also get the opportunity to promote the abilities of your colleagues, which is easier than promoting your own.”

Frantz encouraged the women in the audience to find mentors within and outside their organizations, citing her main internal client—Microsoft Executive Vice President and CFO Amy Hood—as one of her own role models, both personally and professionally. 

“If you are thinking about joining an organization that doesn’t have any women in leadership positions, what makes you think that will change?” Frantz asked. Fisher also encouraged students to look closely at organizations’ structure and culture. “I once had a professor tell me the following: ‘You cannot underestimate how much a law firm cares about you.’ But I always have felt greatly valued at Latham,” she said. “If you consider going in-house, the most important question you should ask is, how much does the company value the opinions of its lawyers?”

While both acknowledged that women face unique challenges in advancing in the legal profession, Fisher and Frantz were adamant that some key factors for success transcend gender lines. 

“I still attend meetings where I’m the only woman, but at Microsoft, I generally find that what I get out of the day is proportional to what I put into it,” Frantz said. “People listen to my good ideas, less so to my bad ones. That’s exactly how it should be.”—AS