Let's stop kidding ourselves about how women are faring in the nation's big firms. To put it bluntly, they are not doing well. And it's not simply that their progress has been slow or static. It's worse: Women are actually falling behind.That stark point was made by the 2012 partner compensation survey by search consultant Major, Lindsey & Africa. Some fascinating but depressing highlights about the sexes from the report:
- Male partners "significantly" outearned female partners, and the gap is widening. Average compensation for male partners in 2011 was about 30 percent higher: $734,000 for men; $497,000 for women. (In 2010, the difference was only $162,000.)
- Male partners report almost 50 percent more originations ($2.03 million for men versus $1.41 million for women).
- More male partners report being "very satisfied" with their compensation (28 percent for men; 22 percent for women).
Guess that last point was a throwaway. Of course, more men are hunky-dory with their pay since they're making about $237,000 more than the woman in the next office.
So what accounts for this huge discrepancy in pay? Well, it's not because the ladies are on a cushy part-time track while the boys are slaving away overtime. The report finds that "male and female partners billed nearly the same number of hours in 2012 (1,690 vs. 1,670, respectively), narrowing the gap even further from 2010 (1,666 vs. 1,622, respectively)."
I also called Jeffrey Lowe, the author of the report, about the gap. "I think it has to do with origination," he says. "It's true that women have smaller books of business. Very few women come with super books—$10 million or more. Only five women [in the survey] have that, versus 39 of the men."
But Lowe adds that the business-generating issue isn't the only factor at work here: "Even when you adjust for comparable books of business, women are making less than men." It's an issue, he says, that he's actively researching.
So let me get this straight: Women are billing as much as the men but not getting paid nearly as much. And the reason is that they are not generating the business (for now, we won't ask whether men are inheriting the business or are more in the client loop). But even when women do originate business, they might still not be compensated as much as men.
So twisted. Honestly, it's almost enough to make you believe in some sort of conspiracy theory. Or in the existence of a "good old boys" network.
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