Salary differences appear smaller for women working as in-house lawyers than for those at top British law firms, where the average hourly wage gap is about 60 percent, according to Bloomberg analysis of government data.
The legal profession has faced criticism in the U.K. for covering up the pay gap, with London law firms excluding highly-paid partners from statistics they were obliged to report earlier this year. Rarely more than a fifth of partnerships are made up of women.
“It is no surprise that the further up the organization you go, the bigger the gap,” Jane Flaherty, a partner at Greenways law and a member of the Women Lawyer’s Division of the Law Society of England and Wales, said. “This is also reflective of other law firms and not just the corporate arena.”
While in-house attorneys make similar money at entry level, the gap between the sexes is widest for lawyers who have worked at the same company for 11 to 20 years. Among this group, female in-house lawyers receive 69 percent of their male colleagues’ income.
The differences for in-house counsel may be shrinking, as the median gap among general counsel who received a law degree after 2010 is less than half of that among those who graduated before 2000.
Female chief legal officers and general counsel earn a median of $210,000, compared to the $270,000 median compensation for men in those roles, according to the survey of over 5,000 in-house lawyers and staff in 65 countries.
The biggest inequalities were in Latin America and the Middle East, where female company lawyers made 38 percent and 45 percent of what male colleagues took home respectively.
The highest-paid practice areas are capital markets, mergers and acquisitions, and antitrust and trade regulations. The highest-paying industries for general counsel are biotechnology and life sciences and technical or research and development work, the report said.
Flaherty said that initiatives that such as mentoring programs, return-to-work initiatives and flexible-working patterns could improve the situation.
”Coming out of the gate, women and men are starting off on roughly equal footing,” Veta T. Richardson, ACC President & CEO, said by email. “But as their careers progress, men start pulling ahead because they receive superior career development, mentoring, professional opportunities, and sponsorship, which become excuses for why men are promoted in greater numbers.”
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