In this interview series, we profile trailblazing women working in M&A, private capital and finance who are driving deals. We highlight their experiences and achievements, and share their insights on what the industry can do to ensure that we see more women on deal teams and at the dealmaking table.
Rosa M. Ertze practices in the area of corporate law, finance and international business transactions, advising domestic, multinational and foreign companies on mergers and acquisitions, private equity, restructurings, commercial lending, general corporate matters, cross-border direct foreign investment, joint ventures and financings. She works extensively with domestic and Latin-American companies doing inbound and outbound investments and business in Mexico and other Latin American countries. Ms. Ertze has advised and guided several U.S. manufacturing companies in setting up, regulating and closing manufacturing operations in Mexico. She also has extensive experience in transactions involving stock and asset sales in the U.S. and in Mexico. Ms. Ertze currently serves as the president of Northeast Chapter of the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce. She is also a member of the firm’s Cuba Business Group and the Mexican and Latin American desks.Ms. Ertze is a 2007 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center (LL.M., International Legal Studies) and a 2005 graduate of Universidad Iberoamericana (J.D. equivalent). She is fluent in Spanish.
TOUCHPOINT: What one quality do you think is most critical to succeed in the investment world?
RME: Perseverance. In this business environment, M&A deals don’t magically happen. You need to hustle, persevere, and if a deal falls through, try again.
TP: In your experience, what’s the number one reason that deals go bad?
RME: Deals fall through for two main reasons: money and liability. At the end of the day, if the parties don’t have the incentive to reach an agreement, or aren’t willing to take on the financial risk or liability, the deal won’t happen. It’s not always the purchase price or valuation that is a deal breaker. Often, during due diligence, certain facts emerge that leave one party unwilling to take on the risk.
TP: What do you find most rewarding about the work you do?
RME: I like solving problems and getting deals done that help businesses grow and thrive. It’s very rewarding to see the jobs that are generated for people and the products or services that are brought to market because of the deals I’ve helped close for my clients.
TP: The industry is changing rapidly: what do you think the investment landscape will look like in 10 years?
RME: Deals are going to move a lot faster. Startups are being led by a new generation of millennials who have a different lens when it comes to how transactions should be conducted and how long the process should take. Things will be simplified, the pace of deals will be a lot faster, and people will be doing deals more often. Of course, technology will play a huge role here. Just look at how the industry has changed over the last decade: We used to have to manage huge amounts of paperwork and closing a deal had to happen with the parties physically in the same room. Now you can close a deal on your iPhone.
TP: Did you have a mentor or role model that encouraged you to enter the investment world?
RME: I began my career as a corporate lawyer when I was very young in Mexico City. There, you start working part-time while you’re still in law school, and it was in this role that I was exposed to the investment and M&A world. Here at Duane Morris, I have two male role models who have helped me immensely in my career. No one tells you in law school how to market your services to clients, or how to develop an elevator pitch to sell your value to a prospective client. It’s invaluable to have senior partners who are open to questions and willing to make time to guide you in these practical, real-world matters.
I’ve made a point of mentoring junior associates myself, particularly young women with children, about how to find work-life balance in the legal profession. I feel very fortunate to work for a family-oriented firm that is committed to investing in the junior people we work with, and has a formal mentorship program and other policies in place to help young lawyers.
TP: According to a leading financial services recruiter, when they post an entry-level investment banking or private capital job opening, typically only 8-10% of the applicant pool is female. What do you think scares women away, and what can be done to attract more women to the profession?
RME: One thing that scares women is knowing that the investment world is driven by men. If you’re a young woman who wants a career but also wants to start a family, will you find enough flexibility and support in the investment world to make these goals possible? Or will you be working 14 hours a day with no flexibility and never see your kids? Even if the supports are in place, such as maternity leave policies, will your colleagues judge you for taking advantage of them and choosing family over advancement? I think these are questions that can lead young women to “opt out” and choose other professions.
To attract more women to the profession, not only the policies need to change or be family-friendly, but the culture and mindset of people in the industry need to change as well. They need to understand that in the new generation, both men and women want to have a career and, in order to do so, they need to split the family obligations equally. This is what the new generation of young professionals is demanding and I think it presents a lot of opportunity for women.
TP: What do you see as the biggest barriers to gender parity in your profession?
RME: In addition to the barriers to entry mentioned above, retention can be a barrier. What supports and policies need to be put in place to prevent young women lawyers from burning out and leaving the profession in their first or second year, or after having children?
The mindset still exists that if you’re a woman and you want to take a bigger role in the workforce, family needs to take a backseat, and this continues to be a major barrier. There’s a lot of pressure to be the perfect mom, the perfect partner, and the perfect professional. It’s a cultural thing we need to change in the US. And though it isn’t the case at my firm, the pay gap between men and women in law is still very real and needs to be addressed.
TP: Does your firm have initiatives in place to encourage gender parity and diversity?
RME: Yes. Duane Morris has been repeatedly ranked as one of the Best Law Firms for Women by Working Mother, based on the firm’s family-friendly policies and business development initiatives that retain women and advance them into the leadership pipeline. The firm has also been ranked by Law360 as one of the 100 best U.S. law firms for women based on the firm’s female representation at the partner and non-partner levels, as well as its total number of female attorneys.
One recent policy that has been implemented by my firm is the ability to ramp down and ramp up before and after taking parental leave. The idea is that you can reduce the hours you’re required to work leading up to your leave and when you are fresh back from leave.
The Duane Morris Women’s Impact Network for Success (WINS) is devoted to the success of our women attorneys within the firm and in the industry. Through various programs, we exchange ideas, foster and expand business contacts and opportunities, and enhance attorney development to fully realize the talent, knowledge, and potential of our women attorneys.
We also have a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, and each spring, all our lawyers participate in an annual Duane Morris Diversity and Inclusion Retreat to share their experiences at the firm and delve into topics including retention issues, Q&A sessions on matters that affect minority attorneys, and panels on marketing and business development strategies.
TP: How is more female representation changing your industry?
RME: The industry is becoming more efficient: no one knows how to balance as much as a working mom! I think women in the workplace often need to maximize their efficiency just to survive, so they bring new ideas about how to do things and new innovations that make the entire workplace more efficient.
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TP: What positive changes have you seen since you started in your career?
RME: I’ve seen positive changes in both equity and diversity. My area of practice is international law, and many of my clients who do business in Latin America have started to demand that there are Latin Americans on the team. They’re also keeping an eye of things to make sure that the work is actually being done by a diverse team, and that the firm isn’t just including diverse lawyers in their pitch who will never get to work on the matter. HP, for example, requires that 20-30% of the legal work they contract must be done by diverse teams.
A junior associate who I mentored at Duane Morris – a young woman with two kids – recently left our firm to join a small boutique firm that makes a point of recruiting women from big firms. All these things are positive signs that the mindset in the industry is beginning to change, and that change is becoming more ingrained and more genuine.
TP: Are there encouraging signs that make you hopeful for the future?
RME: I’m a Hispanic woman living in the US who has a family and a successful career in law. The fact that there are people like me who are visible role models and mentors for women is a positive sign that things are changing. I’m also encouraged by how millennials are demanding more balance. This is definitely having a positive impact on the legal world and M&A.
TP: What advice would you give the next generation of women preparing for a career in M&A, private capital or finance?
RME: My advice would be to persevere. It is possible to have a successful career in M&A or law and balance family and personal commitments. Of course, it’s not easy. None of the good stuff in life is easy. But it can be done. You need to find the right network of support both at home and at work that enables you to do it.
As women, we also need to be willing to speak up, to voice our concerns and tell our employers what we need without being afraid that we’ll be judged. I’ll give you an example: Five years ago, when I had my first child and returned from maternity leave, I found that the firm’s office didn’t have a lactation room. I said, “We need one,” not just for partners, who could use their offices, but for everyone including our assistants and paralegals. The firm got on it right away. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to do it, it was simply that no one had asked for one before and they didn’t know it was something we needed.
Before people didn’t talk about these issues. If we don’t speak up and talk about the problems, how are we ever going to solve them?
Rosa was interviewed by Karen Fisman in March 2018 as part of The DealRoom article: The Path to Gender Parity in M&A and Private Capital.