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There Are More Women Lawyers Than Ever, and They’re Not Pleased With Legal Industry Norms

According to the American Bar Association’s annual Profile of the Legal Profession, issued Thursday, women lawyers aren’t nearly as satisfied with their job experiences at law firms as males are. And they have some fairly good reasons for their feelings.

According to the same survey, as the number of women lawyers continues to rise and female law students outnumber men, law firm owners trying to attract and retain the best talent should consider why so many women in the industry are unhappy.

Their reasons could include a persistent wage disparity between men and women, the fact that women are much more likely to believe they have been denied opportunities because of their gender, and the fact that they face difficult day-to-day situations that their male counterparts have little, if any, experience with.

When you add it all up, you have a rising population of female attorneys who are unsatisfied with their careers and are considerably more likely to leave than their male counterparts.

One could assume that the rise of female law students and lawyers means that some of the barriers women have experienced in the workplace are diminishing, encouraging more women to enter the field.

Despite the fact that their numbers have grown, a lot of factors contribute to women not being as content with their place in society as males.

One of these variables is the amount of promotional chances available. Women make up more than half of law school students (and have since 2016, reaching 54.1 percent in 2020) and 47 percent of all associates, yet just 19 percent of managing partners, 21% of equity partners, and 31% of non-equity partners are women.

Those figures are up from 2012, when only 15% of equity partners and 25% of non-equity partners were female, but they are still far short of an accurate representation in higher-level roles based on overall makeup.
Another factor is the persistent salary disparity in the legal profession.

In 2020, female associates will earn 91 percent of what their male counterparts earn. They made 93 percent for non-equity partners. According to the ABA report, that ratio reduces to 85 percent for equity partners. According to the Department of Labor, the national average for women is currently $0.82 on the dollar.

In 2020, the average annual pay for male equity partners was $861,349. It was $728,923 for women in the same job, a difference of $132,426.

Perhaps even more concerning is the discrepancy in how women and men see their legal companies, which could explain why things are moving so slowly with males (primarily) in charge.

When asked if gender diversity was a priority at their company, for example, 88 percent of men replied yes. Only 54% of women thought so.

When asked if their companies had succeeded in advancing women into leadership positions, 84 percent of men replied yes. Only 55% of women shared this sentiment.

When asked if their firm had been successful in retaining skilled female attorneys, 74% of men said yes. Only 47% of the women agreed this time.

These views are influenced by the day-to-day experiences that men and women have at their workplaces, which can be night and day in some cases.

Only 11% of men, for example, said they had been passed over for a desirable assignment due to their gender. It was 48 percent for women.

Only 7% of males said they had been passed over for promotion because of their gender, compared to 53% of women.

Only 4% of males said they had been denied a pay raise because of their gender, whereas 54% of women believed they had.

Another statistic that struck out was the prevalence of skewed assumptions, which could be a sign of deeper systemic difficulties in the sector. Exactly 0 percent of men claimed they have been mistaken for a lower-level employee at some point. This has happened to a whopping 82 percent of the women polled.

Three-quarters of women claimed they have been the target of a derogatory remark, tale, or joke at work. Only 6% of men were affected.

The greater perspective becomes clearer when these data pieces are considered.

Only 53% of women were satisfied with the leadership of their company, compared to 73% of males.

Only 45 percent of women felt “very or moderately happy” with possibilities for promotion, compared to 62 percent of men.

In terms of proper appreciation of their effort, men were satisfied 71% of the time. It was 50 percent for women.

According to the statistics, male attorneys practically live in a different world than female attorneys. Even as the number of women lawyers begins to outnumber men, the problem persists.

Women accounted for 31% of the legal profession in 2010. The ABA determined that by 2020, that figure had risen to 37.6 percent, with constant rises (with the exception of a 1% decline between 2014 and 2015 and a 0.3 percent drop between 2016 and 2017) over the previous decade.

Women’s percentages in law schools continue to rise, despite the fact that the number of male students in law schools has decreased every year between 2010 and 2020. There were 78,516 male law students in 2010. There will be 52,766 in 2020.

Women, on the other hand, have witnessed an increase in enrollment each year since 2015, rising from 55,766 in 2015 to 61,949 in 2020. On law school campuses, women now make up a solid majority, and the gender divide is expanding. In 2020, over 10,000 more women than men were enrolled in law schools.

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