Still have that bottle of whiskey at your desk from my last little cheery report on women?
Keep it handy. Because you'll need a shot or two to get through this latest survey from The National Association of Women Lawyers. Here are some highlights (or are they lowlights?):
1. Percentage of women in firms is on decline. "Women constitute only 47 percent of the current crop of first- and second-year associates, down from 48 percent in prior surveys," says NAWL. "It may not be a huge change, but it suggests that the pipeline may be shrinking."
2. The latest female ghetto: staff lawyer positions. "Women represent 55 percent of staff attorneys, the highest percentage of women lawyers in any law firm position."
3. Women ain't making much rain. "Women partners constitute only 16 percent of those partners who received credit for at least $500,000 of business, which approximates their percentage as equity partners." NAWL also finds that majority of women are "bookless"--56 percent of women versus 38 percent of men partners.
4. Women lag behind men in pay even at the associate level. Everyone knows that women equity partners lag behind their male peers in pay (NAWL says women make 86 percent of male equity partners' compensation), but did you know that there's also a gap among associates? The difference comes up in bonuses, where women's bonuses lag 6 percent in lockstep firms, and 8 percent in nonlockstep firms.
5. Some "equity" women partners have no real equity. Women represent an astonishing 80 percent of fixed-income equity partners—"those lawyers in mixed-tier or other firms who are required to contribute capital but do not share in the overall profits of the firm."
6. Firm managment is still a boys' club. "The majority of large firms have, at most, two women members on their highest governing committee. A substantial number have either no women (11 percent of firms) or only one woman (35 percent of firms) on their highest governing committee." And only 5 percent of firms have women managing partners—the same percentage as in 2006.
7. Not that 15 percent again! Yes, women equity partners are still stuck at that number. "Anecdotally, that level of equity partnership has been fixed at the same level for 20 years," says NAWL.
There are a lot more fascinating—and distressing—points in the NAWL report, but I'm just too depressed to go on. Indeed, there's such an abundance of bad news that I have a hard time figuring out which part of the report is the real low point.
So I asked Heather Giordanella, NAWL president, for her take. Surprisingly (or maybe not), she tries to be upbeat about the findings: "We can't draw only negative conclusions from the survey; we don't have enough information to draw conclusions [about the causes of the results]. . . . For me, it's getting the information out there to firms that's important."
One big reason NAWL started this survey in 2006, she says, is to start the discussion rolling: "It started as a challenge to firms to achieve 30 percent women equity partners by 2015."
Not even downing a whole bottle of whiskey can make me believe that's achievable.
Additional coverage: See The National Law Journal.
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