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Female American lawyers 'not making partner'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 07/08/13

In the legal world, you could be forgiven for thinking that gender diversity is a foregone conclusion. The last decades have seen a great deal of positive change, with 70 per cent of staff attorneys in the US now women (in the sense that more women are entering the profession, not in the sense that male staff attorneys have been having sex changes).

However, a closer look at the figures shows that there is still a major disparity, with female lawyers only making up 15 per cent of partners in US law firms. What's more, those 15 per cent earn less than their male counterparts.

To coin a phrase, the glass ceiling is still looming above female legal workers in the US, especially in private practice. Why could this be? CNN recently asked some leading lawyers in the country for their thoughts on the matter, receiving a variety of responses.

President of the National Association of Women Lawyers Beth Kaufman argued that flexi-time should be made a more viable option for both men and women, as this would atomise some of the stigma that still exists around the concept.

"Too often, part-time or flex-time lawyering is equated by law firm managers with a lack of ambition, a desire not to work very hard or unreliability. Those stereotypes need to change at large law firms," she declared.

After all, many high-powered industries across the globe now recognise that technological advances have made mobile working and flexible hours a viable option - why should law be any different?

President of the American Bar Association Laurel G Bellows also stressed the importance of cultural change, suggesting that making compensation processes more transparent would make it easier for female partners to push for equal pay.

She urged women to form their own networks and help each other advance in order to counter the male-orientated power structures that still exist at many top legal firms.