LinkedIn post about female CEO of Travis Schultz and Partners sparks debate

Why high-flying male lawyer’s LinkedIn post about his female CEO vacuuming the office and emptying the dishwasher has ENRAGED working mums: ‘Far out… do better!’

  • Male law firm partner shared pictures of his female CEO vacuuming on Linkedin
  • Compensation lawyer Trent Johnson praised his boss for doing ‘the hard yards’
  • However, members of a female lawyers’ group slammed the posts as patronising 
  • On lawyer and mum suggested men ‘show some respect’ and ‘hire a cleaner’ 
  • Law firm says Mr Johnson’s intention in sharing the post was ‘pure of heart’  
  • Know any more? Email: [email protected] 

Female lawyers are seething about what they believe is a sexist and patronising LinkedIn post by a partner at a prestigious law firm after he posted photos of the company CEO vacuuming the office.

Senior lawyer Trent Johnson posted the images of his boss, Kelly Phelps, in smart office wear and a high heels running a Dyson-style stick vacuum over the carpet at Travis Shultz and Partners’ office in Brisbane this week. 

In one of the photos, Ms Phelps – who Mr Johnson reveals started as the firm’s administration assistant and worked as a paralegal before becoming CEO – appears not to know she’s being photographed.

In the second photo, posted alongside a message saying ‘thanks for unloading the dishwasher, too!’ Ms Phelps is caught smiling, with the vacuum off to one side. 

On LinkedIn, Mr Johnson accompanied the photos with a lengthy caption which said: ‘I’m a firm believer that true leaders are those that set the best example, not only in front of the team but also when no one is watching. 

‘It’s no use talking the talk and walking the walk if behind closed doors you’re a different person.

‘This is our CEO Kelly Phelps… She’s done the hard yards and has her own family commitments but still gets in early and before all the phones start ringing makes sure we look professional. 

Brisbane law firm CEIO Kelly Phelps vacuuming the company's office carpet in an image posted by a senior partner who also thanked her for emptying the office dishwasher

Brisbane law firm CEIO Kelly Phelps vacuuming the company’s office carpet in an image posted by a senior partner who also thanked her for emptying the office dishwasher

Senior partner Trent Johnson's post about his firm's CEO doing the office housework has caused a blow-up on Facebook by women lawyers who urged him to 'sow some respect' and 'hire a cleaner'

Senior partner Trent Johnson’s post about his firm’s CEO doing the office housework has caused a blow-up on Facebook by women lawyers who urged him to ‘sow some respect’ and ‘hire a cleaner’ 

Compensation law partner Trent Johnson's post on Linkedin about his CEO attracted good comments from colleagues but it was a different story on a female lawyer's chat forum

Compensation law partner Trent Johnson’s post on Linkedin about his CEO attracted good comments from colleagues but it was a different story on a female lawyer’s chat forum

‘She’s not your typical CEO, in a good way. And by the way Kel, thanks for unloading the dishwasher too!’

Below his post colleagues and associates commented ‘Go Kel!’ and, from another woman, ‘service leadership is always the best’.

Most praised Mr Johnson for his post – including Ms Phelps who said it was a ‘great post’.

A male principal of another Brisbane law firm gushed ‘You’re a superstar!!! I saw a list of values from a start-up in the US last year and one of their values read: ‘We are all floor sweepers’.

‘I loved what that statement implies, and you are demonstrating that perfectly: No one is above picking up a broom (… or a vacuum, or emptying the dishwasher).’  

But it appears that a group of female lawyers were not so enthusiastic about Mr Johnson’s post, believing that he, and other male lawyers, should be cleaning up the office. 

On a private Facebook forum, Lawyer Mums Australia, one female lawyer fumed: ‘Talk about propagating a stereotype?!

‘This post has done it for me today. How about the male partner who posted this unload the dishwasher.

Trent Johnson posted online that his CEO 'did the hard yards' and made their prestigious firm's  office look good by vacuuming and emptying the dishwasher

Trent Johnson posted online that his CEO ‘did the hard yards’ and made their prestigious firm’s  office look good by vacuuming and emptying the dishwasher 

Mr Johnston's comments and his photos of the female boss doing the office housework did not impress an online forum of women lawyers

Female lawyers accused him of 'propagating a stereotype' and adding menial work to her CEO responsibilities

Mr Johnston’s comments and his photos of the female boss doing the office housework did not impress an online forum of women lawyers who accused him of ‘propagating a stereotype’ and adding menial work to her CEO responsibilities

‘(To) top it off he’s getting comments from people saying how he is a good leader for the ‘shout out’.

‘And yes I understand he was coming from a ‘good place’ but far out… do better.’

Another woman lawyer in the Facebook group wrote: ‘I wish he’d realised that a better way to show her some respect would be to hire a cleaner and encourage staff to put their own dishes in the dishwasher.

‘I’m sure she’d appreciate not having to do that kind of crap on top of her CEO responsibilities.’ 

Prestigious Brisbane law firm Travis Schultz & Partners' CEO, Kelly Phelps (above) has unwittingly become the centre of an online blow-up by women lawyers complaining that her colleague's Linkedin post was sexist

Prestigious Brisbane law firm Travis Schultz & Partners’ CEO, Kelly Phelps (above) has unwittingly become the centre of an online blow-up by women lawyers complaining that her colleague’s Linkedin post was sexist

One woman legal partner said the law firm partner's comments only served to underline negative perceptions about women and that she had to empty the office dishwasher during the pandemic because the male lawyers didn't even think to do it

One woman legal partner said the law firm partner’s comments only served to underline negative perceptions about women and that she had to empty the office dishwasher during the pandemic because the male lawyers didn’t even think to do it

One female partner at a legal firm remarked: ‘His comments reflect a lack of understanding of deeper issues, like the fact she works hard to make up for the negative perceptions attached to being a woman and a mother.’

The lawyer said that last year during Covid lockdown, ‘I, a, partner was unpacking the dishwasher. 

‘Not because I wanted to show good leadership, but because none of the men ever thought to do it. They probably never noticed or realised it was me unpacking it.

‘It’s not exactly value for money for your CEO to be unpacking the dishwasher on her salary instead of doing CEO things either.’

On its website, Travis Shultz and Partners says they are ‘compensation lawyers with compassion’ and offer ‘cutting edge expertise without the price tag’.

The firm has offices on the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Cairns, and its managing partner is ‘highly regarded Queensland Law Society Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law Travis Schultz’.

Trent Johnson (left) with his firm's managing partner Travis Schultz (right) and colleagues pose by the Story Bridge and the Brisbane river near the company's head office

Trent Johnson (left) with his firm’s managing partner Travis Schultz (right) and colleagues pose by the Story Bridge and the Brisbane river near the company’s head office

One woman posted on Linkedin a slightly teasing remark  about Johnston cleaning the office, but the CEO said everyone did office housework at Travis Schultz & Partners

One woman posted on Linkedin a slightly teasing remark  about Johnston cleaning the office, but the CEO said everyone did office housework at Travis Schultz & Partners

CEO Kelly Phelps was cleaning Travis Schultz & Partner's (above) office with a stick vacuum when she was photographed and her image put online causing female lawyers to question a male partner's comments about her

CEO Kelly Phelps was cleaning Travis Schultz & Partner’s (above) office with a stick vacuum when she was photographed and her image put online causing female lawyers to question a male partner’s comments about her

In a video on his firm’s website, Mr Schultz said, ‘some say that our values are a bit old-fashioned. 

‘I guess you could say there’s something in that. We insist on being a compensation law firm with a community conscience.’

Travis Schultz & partners Community & Brand manager Liberty Moore told Daily Mail Australia that Mr Johnson and Ms Phelps ‘have a great working relationship’ and that his post was in recognition of his appreciation of her work.

‘We have a bit of a philosophy that we all pitch in,’ Ms Moore said.

‘Trent waters the plants, Travis takes out the rubbish, we have cleaners but everyone chips in.’

She said remarks were Mr Johnson ‘trying to be pure of heart’ about Ms Phelps. 

Mr Johnson told Daily Mail Australia that his Linkedin post was ‘a positive acknowledgement of the supportive nature of our team’.

‘It reiterated that we all help each other with whatever needs to be done at that time, irrespective of gender or position,’ he said.

‘If this post caused any offence, that is regrettable as this was never my intent – quite the opposite in fact.’

Ms Phelps also responded, saying ‘Trent’s post only speaks to half of what occurred that morning, as Trent and I worked together to ensure everything was ready ahead of our scheduled meetings for the day. 

‘While I was vacuuming, Trent was cleaning the kitchen and taking the bins out – no one escapes the office housework at TSP!.

‘In our team your position doesn’t define your role, there is no job too small or too big and that is a sentiment that’s shared across our organisation.

‘Everyone is happy to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in a bid to ensure we maintain the highest of professional services for our clients and the community.’

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