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Third NAWL Study Shows Women Still Underrepresented and Underpaid at Large Firms

The Am Law Daily shares this somewhat underwhelming news from the third annual National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) Survey: Women remain underrepresented in the top ranks at large law firms and underpaid in comparison to their male colleagues. Despite law firm efforts to implement women's business initiatives and other programs to help retain and advance qualified women, something's just not working. 

Here are some of the salient statistics from the report, courtesy of the WSJ Law Blog (where there has been some interesting discussion of this issue in the comments):

According to a survey of 137 of the 200 large corporate defense firms by the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), about 48% of first and second-year associates are women. But the percentages dwindle from there; 27% of non-equity partners and less than 16% of equity partners are women. There is also a considerable pay gap. At 99% of the firms, the top-paid partner is a man; on average, male equity partners earn more than $87,000 annually [more] than female equity partners. (Fifty-nine firms in the AmLaw 200 reported compensation data.)

So why, despite investment in women's initiatives and part-time programs haven't women advanced?  Are women's initiatives merely window dressing, as Denise Howell suggested several months back in Death by Committee? Do we need to give these programs even more time to work? And finally, how much should we care that women haven't cracked the glass ceiling at Biglaw when female lawyers are finding success in virtually every other area (e.g., politics, solo practice, judgeships, in-house and government) outside of large firms?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on November 18, 2008 at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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