The pay gap between male and female partners at U.S. firms is well documented. A 2012 study of partner pay at large firms conducted by Major, Lindsey & Africa and ALM Legal Intelligence indicated that this gap is widening (click here for or report).
To combat the problem, the American Bar Association's Presidential Task Force on Gender Equity, along with its Commission on Women in the Profession, have released a report titled Closing the Gap: A Road Map for Achieving Gender Pay Equity in Law Firm Partner Compensation.
"What's very important about the road map is that it's really directed at the law firm managing partners," says Bobbi Liebenberg, chair of the task force.
Here are a few ways that the report suggests firm leaders can help eliminate the disparity.
1. Be Transparent. Firms should make all factors and formulas involved in the compensation process available in writing. When women understand each element of compensation decisions, they can more easily determine whether they are being shortchanged, either by gender bias or by informal workplace networks.
"If you don't know how your compensation works, you may not even know you're disadvantaged," Liebenberg says.
2. Jump on the metrics bandwagon. These days, quantitative analysis is "in," and firms should crunch their numbers too. "You won't know unless you measure it," Liebenberg says. Firms should continually measure the compensation of men and women at every level of the firm and keep track of other statistics, like the number of women included on pitch teams and selected for high-profile matters.
3. Create a succession plan. Without clear-cut legacy plans, retiring male lawyers tend to pass business along to other men in their firm, even if a female lawyer might be a better fit for the client. Infighting over credit allocation that can result from an ambiguous succession plan can lead to bullying of female attorneys by more senior male colleagues. Firms should also create oversight committees to guarantee that women are included in legacy plans.
4. Diversify your compensation committee. It's not enough to have a handful of token female partners on the firm's compensation committee—there should be a critical mass. Nominating committees can achieve this by presenting a more diverse slate of candidates for the committee, or firms can create at-large seats in these groups for women.
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