For the past eight years, the National Association of Women Lawyers has tracked women’s progress at the 200 largest firms in the nation by comparing their careers and compensation with similarly situated men. We snidely remarked last year that reviewing the most recent report was like “drinking a fifth of gin, then watching Requiem For A Dream: it’s really freaking depressing.”
Keeping that in perspective, we — perhaps over-optimistically — thought that in a year’s time, Biglaw firms would have realized that women have a rightful place in this profession, and deserve to be treated as fairly and as equally as their male counterparts. We were clearly and painfully delusional.
Sure, the percentage of female equity partners rose from 15 percent to 17 percent, and that’s great. But we’ve found out that an “unprecedented” number of Biglaw firms refused to participate in the survey. Was it because they’re sick of surveys, or was it because firms “are generally less interested in the subject of advancing women lawyers and/or are hesitant to share, even on an anonymous and confidential basis, statistics that show that their women lawyers lag behind their male counterparts”?
Let’s find out….
Vivia Chen of The Careerist provides a great summary of NAWL’s 2013 Report (available on the next page):
—Men dominate lateral equity partners. About 66 percent of all new male equity partners are lateral hires, while half of new female equity partners are recruited laterally. (This is significant because “lateral hiring continues to dominate the process by which big law firms move lawyers into equity partnership.”)
—Women are well-represented in lower-status positions. Women make up 47 percent of associates, 38 percent of counsel, 29 percent of nonequity partners, and 64 percent of staff attorneys.
—Women aren’t making equity partner because they lack business and have high attrition rates. About 44 percent of firms say the problem is that women aren’t developing business, while 38 percent say women tend to leave sooner. Another 11 percent of firms say the problem is that women lack sponsors and mentors, while 10 percent cite work/life balance issues.
—Minority female equity partner rates are pathetic. In the Am Law 100, minority women represent only 2 percent of equity partners, while male minorities hold 6 percent of equity partnerships. Among Am Law 200 firms, minority women occupy 2 percent of equity partnerships, while male minorities occupy 4 percent.
Stephanie Scharf, report author and past president of the NAWL Foundation, noted how “troubling” it was that women make up the largest percentage of plebeian positions and the lowest percentage of prestigious positions in Biglaw firms. The word “troubling” is awfully tame for this situation, don’t you think?
Further to this point, as we mentioned above, while a great number of firms refused to participate in the most recent survey, even more refused to report compensation data for male and female equity partners. Why? Because “the gender pay gap found in so many past studies continues to be substantial.” Lovely.
We’re left wondering why Biglaw firms keep claiming that they’re attempting to advance women within their firms. They claim to have written programs to promote the advancement of women, but it seems that they’ve yet to get with them. They’ve “repeatedly advised … that they are committed to the goal of increasing gender equity,” but the results of that goal are nowhere to be seen. If these firms actually gave one damn about their female attorneys — beyond touting the fact that they have real, live women working at the firm — then we’d have seen more progress by now.
We suppose the lady lawyers will have to be satisfied with these one and two percentage point achievements, which is a real shame.
(NAWL’s Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms is available on the next page.)