News flash: women lawyers (still) earn less than men

by Vault Law Editors | April 21, 2010

  • My Vault

mind the gap In case you missed out on the celebrations, yesterday was Equal Pay Day. In honor of the event, Catalyst, a nonprofit whose goal is “to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business,” published some relevant numbers in their blog, Catalyzing. “Women in the United States make about 77 cents to every dollar made by a man,” says Catalyst President Ilene Lang, citing data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

If a 23 percent pay gap seems startling to you, then consider some other statistics cited by Lang:

  • “Professionals are hit the hardest. The latest data show that female physicians in the United States earn, on average, 39% less than male physicians. Women financial analysts take in 35% less, and female chief executives one-quarter less.”

  • “Women who earn an MBA, an M.D. or a law degree fare even worse. They will make $2 million less during their lifetime than the men in their graduating class.”

The good news for women lawyers is that they’re doing better than women financial analysts or physicians — earning an average of just 26 percent less than their male counterparts — in part no doubt because of lockstep systems and a certain amount of salary transparency. As Selena Rezvani, author of The Next Generation of Women Leaders: What You Need to Lead but Won’t Learn in Business School, told Am Law Daily, “Standardization of pay practices helps protect women lawyers.” The bad news is that, despite this standardization, on average and over time, women lawyers still earn markedly less than men.

Proposals for closing the pay gap include legislation. In the meantime, Lang advises, individual employees and job seekers should do their homework and insist on equal pay:

Let’s not forget that one definition of “fair pay” is pay that you still think is fair after you find out what everyone else is making! … So find out what you should earn. Get the data on your industry’s norms. Ask people in your field. If you are earning less, demand more, or consider working somewhere else. Don’t value companies that do not value you.

Toward that end, check out our Law Firm Diversity Database (free reg. req.). While it doesn’t include compensation information, it does include related gender statistics, including the percentage of women among the equity partnership and the number of women serving in leadership roles. (The database will be updated this summer with 2009 figures.) You might also take a look at Vault’s law firm salary charts (gold subscription req.) to compare salaries across firms.

- posted by vera

    Filed Under: Law

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