07 August 2018

More experienced the woman lawyer, greater the dissatisfaction

Women may represent the virtues but don't get rewards

Many experienced women lawyers are saying 'forget it' according to forthcoming ABA survey.

Despite women comprising over 50 percent of law school students and some 45 percent of associates at law firms, less than 20 percent of women ever make partner. Roberta Liebenberg, who heads the American Bar Association’s presidential initiative on achieving long-term careers for women in law, told an ABA panel during its annual meeting in Chicago. 

Stark comparisons

The survey reveals stark comparisons between women and men, with the biggest difference in work life relating to sexual harassment. Forty-nine percent of women surveyed said they had received unwanted sexual contact during their careers, compared to 6 percent of men, and 28 percent of women said they avoided reporting the contact, compared to 1 percent of men. Looking at gender bias in general, 66 percent of women said they lacked access to business development resources, compared to 10 percent of men. Fifty-three percent of women thought they’d been denied a salary increase or bonus, while 4 percent of men think this. Finally, 46 percent of women said they lacked access to mentors, compared to 3 percent of men. Ms Liebenberg, a senior partner at Fine Kaplan and Black in Philadelphia, said such differences likely lead to frustrations that push women out of law firms. 

‘Forget it’

Previous surveys show younger female associates are more satisfied with their careers than their male counterparts. Joyce Sterling, a senior researcher for the ABA initiative and professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, said ‘the survey has touched on the point where women’s frustrations about their experiences convert into dissatisfaction. She added, ‘at that point, women are just saying forget it.’ The final report is due September. The results will be used to seek structural changes at law firms that will help them reach gender parity among their partners, Ms Liebenberg said. The ABA Initiative will use the results to suggest changes to law firms in its September report, so that this conversation won’t have to be repeated ten years from now, ABA president Hilarie Bass added.