Looking In-House, Report Sees Many Pay Gaps

Photo by nikoretro (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Among in-house counsel, women report lower base salaries and lower total compensation than their male counterparts, according to a new survey that found a yawning gender pay gap around the globe.

Released this week, the Association of Corporate Counsel’s 2015 Census polled more than 5,000 in-house attorneys in 73 countries, including the U.S., according to the organization’s chief legal officer James Merklinger, who called it the largest of its kind.

It found that 69 percent of women earned less than $200,000 annually in 2015. In contrast, only about 56 percent of men make less than $200,000.

Female in-house attorneys of color are most likely to face a gap with 71 percent making less than $200,000 in base salary.

In the census, 49.5 percent of respondents identified as women, according to Merklinger. Seventeen percent of the census takers identified as people of color.

To accurately compare income across countries, the census calculated what it called “weighted purchasing power parity.”

The ACC cannot account for what causes the gender and racial divisions in salary among in-house counsel, and the results indicate there is much more to study, Merklinger said.

“What we’re seeing is that throughout all the levels of experience … there’s pay disparity,” Merklinger said. “We don’t know exactly why, but if you were in Vegas and you had to bet on who was going to make less, you’re pretty safe in betting that it would be the woman.”

The ACC advocates for more than 40,000 in-house counsel, working in the private sector in 85 countries. It strives to provide its members with resources and networking opportunities to enhance their performance and make themselves more marketable, Merklinger said.

Because the ACC is still analyzing the results, it said it does not have any other definitive steps to announce at this time. “By identifying that there is a gap, it brings the attention,” Merklinger said. “If anything, it generates a discussion among legal departments.”

There also was variation by industry.

Base salaries were typically highest for in-house counsel in the defense and pharmaceutical industries, the census said. At the opposite end of the spectrum, in-house counsel working in research and development, trade associations and educational services, made the least.

“It’s just the reality of the world, there’s a lot of money being spent on defense,” he said.

Also this year, in-house counsel were more likely to record compensation in the highest and lowest categories rather than the mid-range, a change from the censuses the association did in the past.

The association will run another census between 2018 and 2019.