Just when I start thinking that progress is being made in the advancement of women lawyers, I get hit with new information that sets me back on my heels. I have been advocating for women lawyers for more than 40 years and most significantly for over 15 of those years as the founder of the Best Friends at the Bar project. It has been my great pleasure to promote women lawyers, but it also has been frustrating. Knowing that women lawyers are every bit as competent as male lawyers, and then reading survey information demonstrating disparities in the advancements of these two groups, adds significantly to that frustration.
I always want to be certain that I trust the sources of the information that is being reported. The most recent information comes from a report from the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), a group which I have collaborated with in the past, and is summarized in an article by Vivia Chen in Bloomberg Law, a journalist who I admire for her thorough research, objectivity and honesty. So, I have confidence in the information reported.
The NAWL report is based on analyses of responses from 75 firms in the AmLaw 200. The bottom line, as summarized in Bloomberg Law, is that “women rarely break into the top 10 club of the most highly compensated members of the firm [and] women represent only 22% of equity partners.” We know that the equity partner figure has been hovering near that percentage for almost a decade, so that is not very encouraging.
The most shocking figure reported by NAWL is that, although the law firms surveyed are aware of these issues and are addressing them in pretty “sophisticated” ways — like removing gender biases in compensation and performance reviews — the advancement numbers have not budged much. Frustrating, for sure.
Read more about the NAWL report and the suggestions for firms to help hasten the advancement of women lawyers. Surely there remain reasons to be hopeful, but, basically, I see this as a bummer moment. Can’t help it.
Click here for the Bloomberg Law article.