Monday, November 17, 2014

Diversity Committee: Staying In The Game: Women, Leadership, And The Law

By Katherine Earle Yanes

The statistics of women in the law compared with female lawyers in leadership roles are staggering. Nearly one-third of lawyers are women, and women account for approximately 45 percent of law firm associates ― roughly proportionate to the percentage of female law school graduates. Yet, despite the numbers, women are not obtaining leadership positions consistent with their representation in the profession: 

Women make up approximately 19.9 percent of law firm partners.

About 16 percent of equity partners at large law firms are women, a number that has remained unchanged for about 10 years.

At the 200 largest law firms in the United States, 4 percent of managing partners are women.

As of 2011, the median salary of female lawyers was 86.6 percent of the median salary of male lawyers.

Out of the Fortune 500, 21.6 percent of general counsel are women.

In the federal judiciary, 24.1 percent of judges are women; in the state judiciary, 27.5 percent of judges are women.

The statistics on female representation at Tampa Bay area law firms are consistent with these figures. A recent Tampa Bay Business Journal article reported that, overall, Tampa Bay area law firms “lag behind national statistics in diversity.”  

The Factors

Many factors may contribute to this leadership gap. Law firms that participated in the 8th Annual NAWL Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms identified the following barriers to women achieving equity partnership:

lack of business development (44 percent)

attrition, i.e., women leaving a firm or a slowdown in work among women who remain at a firm (31 percent)

fewer sponsors and mentors (11 percent)

work-life balance (10 percent)

Additionally, women are more than twice as likely as men to leave law firms. Of those who leave law firms, nearly one-third of female associates and another one-third of female, non-equity partners also leave firm practice entirely, as compared with 20 percent of men at each of those levels.   

Addressing the Disparity

Beginning in January 2015, the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, in conjunction with other area Bar associations and organizations, including Stetson University College of Law, the Hillsborough Association of Women Lawyers, the Pinellas County Chapter of the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, the George Edgecomb Bar Association, and the Florida Association of Women Lawyers, will host a program titled “Staying in the Game: Women, Leadership, and the Law." The purpose of the program will be to foster dialogue in an effort to address this disparity by identifying steps that law firms, organizations, law schools, and lawyers can take to encourage female lawyers not to take themselves out of the game but instead to continue on the path toward leadership positions. 

The program will begin in January 2015 with a one-afternoon CLE and roundtable discussion. Following that program, participants will be divided into smaller discussion groups that will meet quarterly throughout 2015 to discuss what law firms, law schools, organizations, and lawyers can do to retain talent and build female leaders. At the end of the one-year project, the recommendations of each discussion group will be synthesized in a report that will be made available to area law firms, organizations, law schools, and lawyers.  

If you are interested in participating in this program, please email Erin Jackson at or Katherine Earle Yanes at