Women Lawyers Lag Behind Men in Pay, Advancement, Clout
October 24, 2012 10:51 am
The National Association of Women Lawyers released it’s 2012 report, and it contains some dispiriting — if unsurprising — data about women in the legal profession. Not only do women (still) make only 77 cents to a man’s dollar, female attorneys are not progressing through the ranks as quickly, making partner as often, taking home as much pay, or getting anywhere near the bonuses that men are, nor do they garner the same clout.
Vivia Chen of The Careerist broke down some key figures from the report:
- That cursed 15 percent figure again. Women make up barely 15 percent of equity partners, and just 26 percent of nonequity partners.
- There’s no shortage of women in lower-status positions. Women represent 46 percent of associates, 35 percent of counsel, and 70 percent of staff attorneys.
- A big wage gap exists between women and men in median compensation. The worst gap is among equity partners, where women make about 89 percent of what men make.
- Women associates get smaller bonuses. Although nearly 50 percent of all associates are women, they receive only 40 percent of the bonuses.
- Women lag behind in business. “Women partners are credited with a smaller median book of business than men, even though their business development efforts may be substantial,” reads the report.
- Compensation decisions are made in a black box. “The gap between the median compensation of male and female equity partners cannot be explained by differences in billable hours, total hours, or books of business.”
- Women partners lack clout. Women hold only 20 percent of the positions on a firm’s highest governance committee, and only 4 percent of firms have a firmwide female managing partner.
Chen goes on to point out some disturbing trends, including the fact that women make up a majority of (low status, non-partner track) staff lawyer positions (70 percent up from 55 percent last year), and that women overall bill far fewer hours than men.
From Chen’s piece:
Though men’s and women’s total hours are largely comparable, [author of the 2012 report Barbara] Flom says it’s “troubling” that women are consistently billing fewer annual hours than men. “The difference is only some 50 or 60 hours at most,” she says. But what she fears is that partners will see that as “a lack of career commitment from women lawyers”—a theory that many are “predisposed” to believe, she says.
The report also highlights how hard it is to decipher how firms make decisions about compensation. ”There aren’t any useful correlations,” says Flom. “It isn’t purely based on books of business, it’s not purely based on hours . . . so what are firms looking at?” Though Flom doesn’t say it in so many words, she strongly suggests bias in the process: “Our concern is that if compensation formulas are opaque or discretionary, women—or men—might not be getting a fair shake and wouldn’t even know it.”
Female attorneys may or may not be a good representation of the average woman in the workplace, but the challenges they face and the biases they contend with are certainly not unique. As Chen says after struggling to locate a sliver of good news in the report, “let’s just call this latest report what it is: depressing.”
Image from here