Women In Legal Field Still Face Uphill Battle, Study Finds

Women In Legal Field Still Face Uphill Battle, Study Finds

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Women In Legal Field Still Face Uphill Battle, Study Finds

 

While women in the United States have managed to gain admission into every professional discipline, the numbers usually show a glass ceiling very clearly.  Women tend to be more present in the lower levels of organizations, and disappear—sometimes quickly—when looking at each new level of authority.

A new survey shows that the legal field still shows this pattern throughout large law firms in the United States.  What's more, there has now been a two year negative trend in women entering large law firms.  The National Association of Women Lawyers looked at women's compensation, promotions, and employment outcomes at the 200 largest law firms nationwide.

According to the National Association of Women Lawyers, the survey shows undeniable patterns of bias against women in the legal profession: “the gap between male and female compensation...does not correlate with male/female differences in billable hours, total hours, or books of business.”  In other words, men aren't putting in any more work—they're just making more money.

In most roles at large law firms, the recent survey showed that women are departing from large law firm practice, and that the discrepancy grows larger each year.  Much of this may be attributable to the high billable hours required by large law firms, which can make it very difficult for women to maintain a work/life balance that they consider acceptable.

The most glaring gender gap happens at the very top: only 4 percent of the top 200 law firms employ a firm wide managing partner who is a woman.  Instead, the study found that women employed as attorneys at large law firms tend to be relegated to a few different roles, including staff attorney and fixed-income equity partner, that offered no room to move up further in the firm hierarchy.

Women are currently a majority of staff attorneys, who have no hope of promotion and are paid a lower wage than most of their firm counterparts.  These positions tend to offer a less hectic work schedule than some partner track positions, which may mean that this discrepancy is also caused by the lack of family-friendly policies in the legal workplace.

Studies have shown that women in flexible workplaces stay longer at their jobs and are more equitably compensated than women at workplaces that require long, inflexible hours.  When women at large firms find alternatives that are more flexible—for example, jobs as in-house counsel or working for a smaller firm—they take advantage of it significantly more often than their male counterparts.

Developing more family friendly policies may be key in helping large law firms continue to cultivate talent from both men and women.  The survey also notes that law firms have recently been cutting attorneys and having more work completed by outside contractors who are not being paid normal firm wages.

The NAWL suggests that the lack of family oriented policies may be, in part, due to the lack of women at the highest levels.  Female executives are more likely to create work/life balance initiatives in the workplace and contribute to a family-positive work culture.

While women in the United States have managed to gain admission into every professional discipline, the numbers usually show a glass ceiling very clearly.  Women tend to be more present in the lower levels of organizations, and disappear—sometimes quickly—when looking at each new level of authority.

A new survey shows that the legal field still shows this pattern throughout large law firms in the United States.  What's more, there has now been a two year negative trend in women entering large law firms.  The National Association of Women Lawyers looked at women's compensation, promotions, and employment outcomes at the 200 largest law firms nationwide.

According to the National Association of Women Lawyers, the survey shows undeniable patterns of bias against women in the legal profession: “the gap between male and female compensation...does not correlate with male/female differences in billable hours, total hours, or books of business.”  In other words, men aren't putting in any more work—they're just making more money.

In most roles at large law firms, the recent survey showed that women are departing from large law firm practice, and that the discrepancy grows larger each year.  Much of this may be attributable to the high billable hours required by large law firms, which can make it very difficult for women to maintain a work/life balance that they consider acceptable.

The most glaring gender gap happens at the very top: only 4 percent of the top 200 law firms employ a firm wide managing partner who is a woman.  Instead, the study found that women employed as attorneys at large law firms tend to be relegated to a few different roles, including staff attorney and fixed-income equity partner, that offered no room to move up further in the firm hierarchy.  

Women are currently a majority of staff attorneys, who have no hope of promotion and are paid a lower wage than most of their firm counterparts.  These positions tend to offer a less hectic work schedule than some partner track positions, which may mean that this discrepancy is also caused by the lack of family-friendly policies in the legal workplace.

Studies have shown that women in flexible workplaces stay longer at their jobs and are more equitably compensated than women at workplaces that require long, inflexible hours.  When women at large firms find alternatives that are more flexible—for example, jobs as in-house counsel or working for a smaller firm—they take advantage of it significantly more often than their male counterparts.

Developing more family friendly policies may be key in helping large law firms continue to cultivate talent from both men and women.  The survey also notes that law firms have recently been cutting attorneys and having more work completed by outside contractors who are not being paid normal firm wages.

The NAWL suggests that the lack of family oriented policies may be, in part, due to the lack of women at the highest levels.  Female executives are more likely to create work/life balance initiatives in the workplace and contribute to a family-positive work culture.

Sources: nawl.org, eeoc.org

 

 

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