Women are getting better educated than ever, but that still hasn’t translated to equality in the workplace. Female lawyers in particular are shut out of the most prestigious jobs—even though 50.3 percent of law school grads are women, according to the 2017 Law360 Glass Ceiling Report.
Only 35 percent of lawyers working at top law firms are female, and when it comes to equity partners—those who hold shares in their firms, make the most money, and have the greatest leadership roles—the numbers are even bleaker: Just 20 percent are women. Of the 300 firms included in the report, only nine had workforces consisting primarily of women.
These numbers haven’t changed much over the past few years. Only one percent more female lawyers are working at law firms than last year, and the proportion of equity partners hasn’t budged at all. One change that was observed, though, is that law firms are facing more gender-bias lawsuits. Hopefully as more employees take legal action, law firms will feel pressure to prevent gender bias in their workplaces, Law360 editor in chief Anne Urda told the New York Times.
The paucity of women lawyers in these jobs doesn’t seem to be due to any lack of effort on their part. A 2015 Harvard Law School study found that female lawyers worked longer hours than their male counterparts. They were also underrepresented in top positions and more likely to face discrimination for their gender and “personal characteristics.” Women’s lack of representation in law firms got even worse when they had kids, suggesting that the problem (and the solution) is in the home as well as the office.
Other industries have also shown a lack of progress as more women enter them. In academia, for example, women’s salaries are increasing, but women still hold the bulk of lower-paying positions and few full professorships. And though women constitute nearly a third of the country’s med students and doctors, they still face an enormous wage gap and rampant discrimination. As more women enter fields from which they’ve traditionally been excluded, companies need to be more conscious about ensuring that their female employees can succeed.