Is It All Bad News For Women Lawyers?

Have you seen the results of the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) most recent Annual Survey on the progress of women lawyers?  At first blush, it’s pretty discouraging — as it has been for the previous eight years. I am especially disappointed with the reporting on the gender compensation pay gap.  Equal work should mean equal pay.  These figures appear to be affected by a lot of gender bias and failure to recognize that men and women approach work differently.  It should not all be about billable hours.  Regrettable to be sure.

However, I recommend that you keep an open mind when you read the results of the survey.  Ask yourself whether this report is measuring progress for women lawyers with a yardstick that matters to you.  There is a difference between measuring how many women advance to partnership and management positions in law firms and measuring how many women lawyers stay in the profession and have satisfying careers.

For many of you, who are not able to push forward to partnership without interruptions from family and caretaking responsibilities, the important thing is that success is not a series of snapshots at predetermined career markers.  Success is a spectrum of moments and years of keeping a career alive and finding a balance that works for you.

So, here are the highlights from NAWL’s Ninth Annual Survey, as recently reported by Above the Law:

  1. Men continue to be promoted to non-equity partner status in significantly higher numbers than women. Among the non-equity partners who graduated from law school in 2004 and later, 38% were women and 62% were men.
  2. The compensation gender gap remains wide. The typical female equity partner earns 80% of what a typical male equity partner earns, down from 84% in the first survey. Thus, the gap reported a decade ago has gotten wider.
  3. Women continue to be under-represented on the highest governance committees. The typical firm has 2 women and 8 men on their highest U.S.-based governance committee around 20% women.
  4. Women are under-represented on compensation committees. Yet, law firms that report more women on their compensation committees have narrower gender-pay gaps.
  5. The typical female equity partner bills only 78% of what a typical male equity partner bills. However, the total hours for the typical female equity partner exceeded the total hours for the typical male equity partner.
  6. Lawyers of color represent only 8% of the law firm equity partners. In other words, 92% of biglaw partners are white.
  7. Women have not made “appreciable progress” since 2006 in either attaining equity partnership or increasing their pay to be on par with their male colleagues once they grasp the brass ring. As Bloomberg highlights in NAWL’s report: “Women represent 18 percent of equity partners, an increase of two percent since 2006.”

For more perspective on this subject, see this article in The American Lawyer://

Let’s hope that “10” will be the lucky number for this survey.  Wouldn’t that be nice for women lawyers?

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