Carolina Rodrigues – GE Vernova
As Latin American senior labor and employment counsel for GE Vernova—which includes GE’s current energy businesses units that will become an independent company in early 2024—Carolina Rodrigues is responsible for managing labor legal affairs throughout Latin America.
That means she’s helped the company navigate changes to Mexican laws governing outsourced labor as well as new laws on teleworking that were enacted in several Latin American countries. She’s also managed labor litigation.
“I’m an adviser on all sorts of labor and employment matters, including global polices about benefits plans, compliance and everything related to labor litigation,” she says.
But even with such a legal scope, Rodrigues says her role as a mentor means as much or even more—she’s helped nearly half a dozen women and minority attorneys and law school students advance their careers.
“As a labor attorney, I’m always involved in compliance for fair employment practices,” Rodrigues says. “That is rewarding because I can do the right thing and can help with training on best practices. But it is also very rewarding to help other women grow in the legal profession.”
Understand mentees first
Rodrigues, who was named an officer for the International Bar Association Diversity and Equality Law Committee in January, says her mentoring efforts began in earnest in 2019 in an initiative sponsored by Juridico de Saias, which translates to “legal in skirts.”
The affinity group is comprised of more than 2,500 female in-house counsels, some of whom mentor Black law school students at Faculdade Zumbi dos Palmares.
Rodrigues mentored a senior student for seven months, advising her on how to search for jobs as well as discussing how to deal with uncomfortable situations and discrimination she’d face as she began her career. She remains in contact with her mentee, often sharing job opportunities, especially those focused on Black candidates.
When working with students, who are typically in their senior year, Rodrigues is candid about the perceptions and realities of a legal career as well as the path and expectations they’ll encounter.
Rodrigues draws from personal experience, too. During her junior year at Universidade de São Paulo, she wanted to become a corporate attorney but didn’t speak English well enough. She then took private lessons to improve her English. When she shifted her studies to civil litigation, she was passed by for an internship she wanted and took an offer to work in labor and employment law, which she says turned out to be a one of the best events in her career.
“I tried to show anything wouldn’t stop me,” she says. “I didn’t face those facts as a failure.”
Confidence and trusting oneself are crucial, Rodrigues tells students and attorneys, and although showing confidence as a minority may be difficult, it is one of the most important things they can do as they prepare for a career.
“I try to empower people and I ask personal and professional questions first,” she says. “I need to understand how they see themselves and then show that what they may see isn’t true or is relevant for professional purposes.”
In 2020, Rodrigues began mentoring a peer from a firm that provided outside counsel to GE Vernova.
The attorney was skilled in practicing labor and employment law but unsure of how to become a partner. So, they worked together on building her self-image as well as a practical approach to getting recognized for her skills by developing business plans and other legal support. Their efforts paid off and her mentee became a partner.
Rodrigues is also part of a program established at GE Vernova in 2022 where its legal leaders asked outside counsel firms to present minority candidates for mentoring.
She says she’s currently working with a bisexual male attorney to help him develop his career path, and she has also provided advice on practicing labor and employment law to other mentees of the program who are working with her legal department colleagues.
“I want to help mentees understand perceived flaws and show how easily they can be corrected,” she says. “There are solutions such as developing better organization and project management skills.”
Working for the future
A native of São Paulo, Brazil, Rodrigues says she was born to be an attorney because she was always trying to make a point and convince her family with her arguments.
After graduating law school in 2003, she became an associate at the firm of Levy & Salomão Advagados and was promoted to senior associate in January 2010. In March 2011, Rodrigues joined Veirano Advogados as a senior associate, and then took the same position at Machado Meyer Advogados in May 2012. She says she came to love practicing labor and employment law, although she says it’s sometimes viewed as a second-tier practice area in Brazil.
“I like labor and employment law because it’s also very objective and factual, too,” she says “You’re dealing with people and their needs and you can make a difference. It can be easier to stand out and make a name for yourself.”
In July 2016, she joined GE as labor and employment senior counsel for Brazil and was promoted to her current role at GE Vernova in January 2021.
Outside the office, Rodrigues and her husband are raising their daughter and the family enjoys traveling. She’s also taking Spanish lessons to help her communicate better with Latin American clients and attorneys who don’t speak her native Portuguese.
Rodrigues says her mentoring and DEI efforts are important for her business and profession—and parenting.
“As women we have to act,” she says. “I have great opportunities, so the least I can do is help build a better world and have a positive impact on my daughter.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall I 2023 Edition here.
Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!
Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing