News Releases

Lindquist & Vennum Hosts Third Annual Access to Leadership Forum


On Thursday, April 25, Lindquist & Vennum LLP, in collaboration with Medtronic, Minnesota Women Lawyers, and local bar organizations, presented a lively, practical discussion on women and leadership at its third annual Access to Leadership forum at Medtronic’s Mounds View campus. With more than 250 men and women registered for the event, support from the community was tremendous. Participants represented a diverse set of backgrounds; including state and federal court judges, corporate executives, in-house counsel, private practice attorneys, government attorneys, entrepreneurs, and university students. The event focused on the value of female leadership in corporate, legal, and government organizations in achieving economic growth, the challenges and barriers women face in moving up the corporate ladder and becoming leaders in these organizations, and applicable strategies for creating more opportunities for diversity in future leadership and reducing the gender gap.

Lindquist & Vennum managing partner, Dennis O’Malley, shared his perspective on the event’s significance for the community. "Lindquist & Vennum is committed to the advancement of all of our attorneys, irrespective of gender. The ‘glass ceiling’ will never be shattered permanently unless management makes a conscious effort to mentor its female attorneys and staff. The Access to Leadership event is essential to reminding community leaders how important it is to diligently continue those efforts."

The event’s welcoming remarks were delivered by the Honorable Judge Diana E. Murphy of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, who spoke about the evolution of women in the workplace and the range of social norms and barriers that have prevented the full participation of women in past years. "Meetings like this one today helped open the judiciary to women as well as into the doors of law firms, businesses, and government," she stated.

Next, a statistical background presentation on the impact women’s contributions have in driving economic prosperity was given. To list a few key numbers, the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report shows that companies that are most successful at closing the gender gap and retaining a diverse group of workers are also the most economically competitive and prosperous. A report by Goldman Sachs shows that an overall reduction in barriers to female leadership in companies would increase the size of America’s GDP by nine percent. Another significant number- in the United States alone, women own approximately eight million businesses, contributing nearly $1.2 trillion to the GDP.

A panel discussion followed with U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeanne J. Graham; Michelle Miller, vice president and chief counsel, employment law, Medtronic; and Kimberly Nelson, senior vice president of external relations, General Mills. The panel had a robust conversation on the definition of leadership, as well as the importance, both from a business and a personal standpoint, of empowering and inspiring women to become leaders.

Following the opening remarks and panel presentation, participants were given the opportunity to share their perspectives through small group discussions led by a distinguished assembly of Twin Cities women leaders*, including attorneys, business professionals, and judges. Following these small-group discussions, Lindquist & Vennum attorneys Karla Vehrs, Kelly Laudon, and Nicole Hittner, along with Joan Humes from Medtronic and Anne Honsa from Honsa & Associates, P.A., summarized the groups’ strategies for policies companies can employ to retain and promote women in the workplace.

Event attendee, Barbara Klas, Esq., shared her perspective, stating, “ It is astounding to me that over 200 women leaders in one room - and the eight women at my table- continue to share variations of the same story — i.e. that the gender barriers to our ability to lead and influence exist across all industries and professions. If we are to be supported for ‘leaning in’ to our ambitions and ability to lead, women must refuse to ‘play the game.’ Women and men must change the game, discard the good 'ole boy rules, and create an equal playing field.”

“This was my first opportunity to attend the Access to Leadership event,” commented Chris Grote, partner at Lindquist & Vennum. “It was an excellent opportunity to listen to and learn from viewpoints on leadership that come from a prospective different than my own. I particularly appreciated the fact that the event was attended by people with a wide-variety of non-legal backgrounds and experiences who were willing to share their thoughts and insights. I am confident I will attend the event next time around.”

Participants were encouraged to submit written reflections, comments or ideas via the Twitter feed @Acc2Leadership, in an effort to continue the discussion online. For additional information, please

*Table leaders included: Mary Akkerman, Lindquist & Vennum; Veronica Basel, Lindquist & Vennum; Lisa Brabbit, University of St. Thomas School of Law; The Honorable Margaret Daly, Hennepin County District Court; Marnie DeWall, Lindquist & Vennum; Sonja Trom Eayrs, Lindquist & Vennum; Meghan Elliott, Lindquist & Vennum; Susan Gaertner, Gray Plant Mooty; Nicole Gilchrist, Ameriprise Financial; Laura Graf, Lindquist & Vennum; April Hamlin, Lindquist & Vennum; Tonya Hampton, Health Partners; Christina Herriges, Minnesota Fourth Judicial District for Hennepin County; Megan Hertzler, Xcel Energy; DeAnne Hilgers, Lindquist & Vennum; Nicole Hittner, Lindquist & Vennum; Anne Honsa, Honsa & Associates; Joan Humes, Medtronic, Inc.; Shawn Judge, The Speakers Edge; Kirstin Kanski, Lindquist & Vennum; Barbara Klas, Falcon Discovery; Amy Lauck, Lindquist & Vennum; Kelly Laudon, Lindquist & Vennum; The Honorable Helen Meyer, Minnesota Supreme Court; Adine Momoh, Leonard, Street & Deinard; Tara Norgard, Carlson, Caspers, Vandenburgh, Lindquist & Schuman, P.A.; Becky Owen, Minnesota Fourth Judicial District for Hennepin County; Debra Page, Lindquist & Vennum; Elizabeth Patton, Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly LLP; Donika Pentcheva, Westman, Champlin & Kelly, PA; The Honorable Denise Reilly, Minnesota Fourth Judicial District for Hennepin County; Kim Ruckdaschel-Haley, Lindquist & Vennum; Justina Roberts, Law Clerk to The Hon. Kathleen Sanberg, U.S. Bankruptcy Court; Jessica Rugani, Anoka County, Assistant County Attorney; Barbara Rummel, Lindquist & Vennum; Carrie Ryan Gallia, Lindquist & Vennum; Elizabeth Sanberg, Lindquist & Vennum; The Honorable Kathleen Sanberg, Bankruptcy Court, U.S. District of Minnesota; Krista Schneider, Hennepin County Family Court; Brittany Stephens Pearson, Lindquist & Vennum; Rachna Sullivan, Fredrikson & Byron; Maggie Tatton, Lindquist & Vennum; Mavis Van Sambeek, Lindquist & Vennum; Karla Vehrs, Lindquist & Vennum; Nancy Vollertsen, Lindquist & Vennum; Carol Washington, Lindquist & Vennum; Sarah Whiting, Lindquist & Vennum; Bonnie Wittenburg, Wittenburg Law Office, PLLC; Jennifer Wuollet, Lindquist & Vennum; and Sarah Zach, Lindquist & Vennum.

Duff, Christine
Communications and Brand Manager

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