Progress toward Big Law gender equity remains slow, but women have gained positions on leadership committees at the biggest U.S. law firms, a new survey shows.
Women hold 37 percent of firm governance spots at the Top 50 law firms by revenue, according to the survey by the National Association of Women Lawyers.
Across the AmLaw 200, women hold 25 percent of firm governance roles, which include positions on governance committees, compensation committees, or jobs like managing partner.
Sarretta McDonough, president of the lawyers’ association, called this data a “bright spot” amid an otherwise gray portrait of slow change.
“It could be a sign that that’s where the profession is moving on those high-level management and compensation committees,” she told Bloomberg Law, explaining that the top quarter of AmLaw200 tend to set the trends for the rest.
Men not only outnumber women in the equity partnership ranks but are also firm top earners. Of the 10 most highly compensated lawyers in firms, either none or only one is a woman. Ninety-three percent of firms reported that their top earner is a man.
Across all positions within firms, people of color, women of color, LGBTQI attorneys and persons with disabilities fare worse. Of the women who do make it to equity partnership, most are white. Only 2 percent of equity partners are minority women.
McDonough said she believes that including more women in governance will likely improve their numbers at the highest ranks of law firms.
Overall, women make up 20 percent of equity partners, a number that has changed very little, if at all, in past years.
“Having more representation in a committee where there is potentially more subjective evaluation going on means that there’s more of an opportunity that it will help,” she said. “We’ll need several years of data before we can tie representation to the pay gap diminishing and representation increasing in the equity ranks.”
The group’s 12th annual survey was sent to the 200 largest U.S. law firms in February 2018 and responding law firms had until April 30, 2018, to submit their responses. The response rate was 48.5 percent, which is typical for these surveys, according to the association.
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