In an article last week on Forbes.com outlining the top 10 workplace trends of 2013 , contributor Dan Schwabel says that one of those trends is that women will start to outpace men at work.
According to Schwabel,
One billion women will enter the workplace in the next decade. Research shows that they are more educated than men and many are saying that they will start taking leadership positions away from them. Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer are just the beginning. Look for more females to break into top roles next year and beyond.
Of course, Schwabel wasn’t speaking about women in the legal profession, and although women have made some gains, there is still much work to be done, both by the women themselves and by the profession.
The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession is dedicated to the issues faced by women in the legal field. According to the ABA’s “A Current Glance at Women in the Law 2013” statistical report, women comprise 33.3% of the total population of lawyers in the U.S., but only 19.9% of partners, and only 15% of equity partners. In Fortune 500 companies, women comprise 21.6% of general counsel.
The ABA’s Goal III report from this year, reporting on women’s advancement into leadership positions in the ABA, indicates that Women comprise 31.5% of the lawyer members of the ABA and 32.4% of the lawyer, associate, and student members of the ABA.
Earlier this year, in an article in the ABA Journal, then-ABA President Laurel Bellows noted that since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law in 1963 women have made some gains, but the pay gap between women and men still exists, with women in 2013 earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, and “female equity partners in the 200 largest firms, who do comparable work to men, earn 89 percent of the compensation of their male peers.”
In response, Bellows, along with the ABA Task Force on Gender Equity and the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession launched an initiative to help law firms of all sizes achieve gender equity in partner compensation by preparing a toolkit for bar associations to use to prepare programs on compensation systems. The Gender Equity Task Force’s web page includes resources to help both firms and individuals, including publications about what you should know when negotiating compensation, and recommended steps firms can take to ensure gender equity in their compensation systems, as well as the aforementioned “toolkit.”
One indication that there is still work to be done is that registration for the program scheduled for October 24, 2013 entitled, “Closing the Gap: Achieving Gender Pay Equity in Law Firm Compensation,” presented by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and the Task Force on Gender Equity closed out early had had a waiting list. It is clear that these issues are still at the forefront for women in the profession.
Other resources women can look to for specific guidance and resources geared specifically toward them include:
The National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) A “national voluntary legal professional organization devoted to promoting the interests and progress of women lawyers and women's legal rights.” It was founded in 1899, and provides programs, networking opportunities and other tools for women lawyers “to advance, prosper and enrich the profession.” Membership is open to anyone and there are membership rates for law students, junior lawyers, lawyers in the government/nonprofit sector, solo and small firms, as well as rates for firms of all sizes.
NAMWOLF (the National Association of Minority and Women Owed Law Firms), another organization promoting women in the profession, “initiat[es] contact with major corporations and public entities on behalf of its members and encourages these corporations and public entities to form business relationships with minority and women-owned law firms.” Law Firm NAMWOLF applicants must have an AV Rating from Martindale-Hubbel as well as corporate references.
Although not specifically targeted at lawyers, the Small Business Association can be a helpful resource for women-owned law firms. The SBA has resources for women-owned businesses , including information on estimating startup expenses, writing business plans, preparing business taxes, hiring employees, credit card processing and more.
There is also the ABA Women Rainmakers, an active group within the Law Practice Division which puts on programs for women lawyers, organizes rainmaking circles, and provides additional resources about women lawyers and marketing.
This blog post from Findlaw.com contains a list of resources that might be helpful for women attorneys trying to build their firms.
If you’re a woman lawyer, celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month by taking some time to check out some of these resources to see how they can help you – or how you can help other women in the profession.