“People think that because women are increasing in numbers that their opportunity is equal,” Bellows tells the Careerist.
Not so much, she says.
Research by the National Association of Women Lawyers showed that, in 2012, female attorneys at the equity partner level were still paid only 89 cents to the dollar of what their male counterparts made. That’s better than the national average for women—but still far from fair.
Clearly female attorneys of all stripes are getting fabulous results for clients in negotiations, so why shouldn’t they get better results for themselves?
With the male/female compensation disparity in mind, the ABA’s Presidential Task Force on Gender Equity, founded by Bellows when she took office in 2012, teamed up with its Commission on Women in the Profession to create a guide for female partners looking to prep for compensation negotiations.
The main message of the guide: informed is forearmed. Bellows says she’d like to see women “take the information we’re giving them and use it to catapult past the remaining barriers.”
Here’s some advice for women from the ABA guide:
1. Focus on right numbers. It might seem obvious, but understanding how your contribution to the firm is measured quantitatively (and qualitatively, for that matter) for compensation is essential. If a compensation formula exists, understand it and strategize around it. In a 2012 survey by Major, Lindsey & Africa most partners said that they felt origination of business, working attorney receipts, and billable hours were the top three stats factored into compensation.
2. Beware second-generation gender issues. Just because it’s not the 1950s anymore doesn’t mean that women in the firm are getting the clout they deserve. “I don’t think men or women are aware of implicit bias that we are beginning to talk about,” Bellows says.
Second-generation gender issues range from negative stereotypes of women—an assertive woman can be seen as mean and aggressive, while her male counterpart is often admired—to firm policies that may appear harmless, but actually give men a significant advantage. For example, many firms give credit for nabbing a new client to the “origination” or “billing” attorney who “manages” the client relationship. Since men are more likely to be found in this role, women often miss out.
3. Keep a “brag book.” “I’m always seeing an undervaluing of women by themselves, and an undervaluing by their peers,” explains Bellows, who says some women shy away from talking up their accomplishments for a bigger payout because society still perceives a little bit of healthy bragging as a negative trait when done by someone without a Y-chromosome.
To help highlight your achievements, write them down in one place so you can easily access them while drafting the self-evaluation memo usually required as part of the compensation process. In writing, and during meetings with the compensation committee, managing partners, or other decision-makers be “positive and direct” about accomplishments. Tie your business stats directly to your responsibilities and all you’ve done for the firm. You won’t get what you deserve unless you ask for it.
4. Do some recon. And then there’s the informal side of the compensation negotiation process. If your firm encourages doing a little lobbying on your own behalf, go ahead, but many firms prefer that a friendly advocate have these conversations for you. Start planning early and find out from other partners how the compensation committee or other decision-making body tends to operate. It’s helpful to know who wields the power on these committees and which members may be allied with one another, so you can strategize accordingly.
In addition to releasing the report, the ABA has released a series of online videos starring Bellows that provide tips for women on how to best negotiate for the compensation they want. The videos were produced for Equal Pay Day 2013, which fell this year on April 9--that is the day that women in the U.S. have to work up to in 2013 to earn what men earned in 2012.
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