Today’s legal news outlets are full of conflicting information about the state of women in the law. On the one hand, there are reports about law firms adopting policies to promote women, and, on the other hand, there are reports that female partner promotions are plunging in the UK, which gives us pause to wonder when that particular trend will hit the US.
There also are reports of gender pay gaps among in-house counsel, with women lawyers drawing the short straws, and the number of law suits by women law firm partners alleging pay discrimination is on the rise. (For more information on gender pay equity, see my blog from earlier this year and read my comprehensive article on the subject in the DC Women’s Bar newsletter that is cited in the blog.)
What to do? It is a serious question for all of you to contemplate. It may be time to consider your options.
I have been writing and speaking on subjects related to women lawyers for the last decade. Along the way, I have tried to keep the faith that right will prevail and that, with increased visibility, women will receive the equal treatment they are entitled to in the law profession. I surely know that women lawyers are very qualified and represent great value to the profession, so it follows that they should be treated equally and fairly. For me it was just a matter of time and shedding greater light on the issues.
But, I am not naive. I founded the Best Friends at the Bar project because of the lack of progress on retention and advancement of women in the law, and, over the years, I have been struck by the continued slow progress and the unfair treatment that has accompanied it, and I fear that past is prologue. So, today, I take a little different view.
Today, I tell women lawyers to band together to safeguard their futures– not only within the law firm but also outside of the law firm. Perhaps at another law firm — one that they band together to form. A place where they will respect each other and the individual circumstances that challenge each of them. A place where they will help each other to prevail against those challenges with the confidence that a professionally satisfied lawyer is a lasting lawyer.
Women-owned law firms are becoming more and more prevalent, and, according to this recent article, an organization has been formed to help women lawyers in this endeavor. Read the interview of Nicole Galli, who left Big Law to form her own women-owned law firm and now helps guide other women lawyers in their own similar pursuits.
Do not despair over weak statistics and slow progress. That is not worth your time. What is worth your time is planning for your future. So, just do it!