This just in from the National Association of Women Lawyers (who took it upon themselves to conduct yet another study doomed to have depressing results from the very start)--they've reached the "astounding" conclusion that women lawyers are "terribly underrepresented" in the upper ranks of large law firms.
Via the ABA Journal one of the findings of the study was that:
Women play “a surprisingly small role” in the highest levels of firm leadership. The highest governing committee at the average large law firm is made up of only 15 percent women. Only about 6 percent of law firms have women managing partners, a small increase from 2006, when only 5 percent of the managing partners were women.
Say what? Good lord--really?!?! Why, I had no idea. Thank goodness NAWL conducted this study. Now that we know all about the gender disparities in the legal profession--now that they're documented--things will no doubt improve, right?
I don't know about you, but I'm not holding my breath.
And neither is Joanne Lipman, who wrote an amazing op-ed in the New York Times this weekend about gender and our culture: The Mismeasure of Woman.
If you do nothing else today, read this article. It sums up so many of my experiences and feelings about gender issues.
From the article:
The truth is, women haven't come nearly as far as we would have predicted 25 years ago. Somewhere along the line, especially in recent years, progress for women has stalled. And attitudes have taken a giant leap backward.
I never expected that we would be in this predicament. My generation of professional women took equality for granted. When I was in college in the 1980s, many of us looked derisively at the women's liberation movement. That was something that strident, humorless, shrill women had done before us.
We were sure we were beyond it. We were post-feminists. After all, we lived equally with men. We felt that when we took our place in society, issues of gender - and race too - wouldn't be a factor.
Back in college, my friends and I never even had a conversation about balancing work and family. We had never heard of glass ceilings. We didn't talk about sexual harassment - that was just part of life.
I continue to wonder how I glossed over these issues in my youth. I seemed to think that everything would magically fall into place. I was disdainful of stay at home mothers. Domestic duties were unimportant, simplistic and most certainly beneath me.
Somehow, I would achieve professional success and everything else would somehow, magically, work itself out.
Sadly, that wasn't the case. Running a home and parenting children actually take up time and energy.
Kids gets sick at the most inconvenient times--and never at the same time as their siblings. People who repair furnaces, plumbing and roofing tend to want to accomplish those tasks in the daytime, during regular work hours.
Another factor I never fully appreciated until I had kids: if my kids leave the house with uncombed hair, but they're with daddy, it's "sweet". If they're with me, I'm a horrible, unfit mother who doesn't care for her kids.
People never approach my husband to volunteer for school activities--they always approach me--even though I work full-time. And, if my husband makes an appearance as a volunteer at a school activity, it's unexpected and "cute". If I do so, it's normal and expected-- if fail to do so, I'm an uncaring, selfish mother.
It's not easy being a woman and a mom. We're all doing the best we can do. Which is why I loved the concluding paragraphs of Lipman's article:
Women do have a different culture from men. And that can give us some tremendous advantages. Women are built to withstand hardship and pain. (Anyone who has given birth knows what I'm talking about.) That's a big benefit at a time like this, with the unemployment rate at 9.8 percent and rising.
Women define success differently; for some it may be a career, for others the ability to stay home with children. They also define themselves differently. I'm in the unfortunate position of witnessing many friends and colleagues laid off over the past year. But the women are less apt to fall apart - and this goes even for the primary breadwinners - because they are less likely to define themselves by their job in the first place.
Certainly, when you look at the numbers, women have made tremendous strides over the past 25 years. But in the process, we lost sight of something important. After focusing for so long on better jobs and higher pay, maybe the best thing - the enduring thing - we can do is make sure respect is part of the equation too.
If we can change the conversation about women, the numbers will finally add up. And that's what real progress looks like.