Tag Archives: respect

Why aren’t women lawyers reaching the top of their firms in pay and respect?

Years ago, the American Bar Association saw cause for concern. There were lots of female lawyers but much fewer female partners. So they set up a commission to look into why.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk to Patricia Gillette, a member of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. I was prompted into a discussion with her by a gender discrimination lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in New York against Miami's Greenberg Traurig, one of the 250 largest law firms in the country.

The lawsuit made various bold claims against Greenberg.

FranFormer
shareholder Francine Friedman Griesing alleges that Greenberg pays women
less, promotes them at lower rates than men and virtually freezes them out from
high-level managerial positions. She says women at the firm are denied their
fair share of origination credit and internal referrals. Griesing also says
although she was a partner, the firm's three tiered equity structure classified
her into the lowest level, while less qualified men were put in the higher,
more lucrative levels. She is seeking to represent a class of current and
former women shareholders at the firm. 

 

Her claims of gender bias were concerns I've heard before, raised by women at various large law firms including Greenberg Traurig.

So I asked Patricia her thoughts on whether women are making real progress advancing at the country's law firms and whether pervasive gender inequity remains a problem. Patricia mentioned that the current ABA President Laurel Bellows initiated a gender equity task force this year to address bias against and equal pay for women in law.

Patricia said in recent years, the tiered partnership — equity and non equity — has been problem for women lawyers. It has been a way for large law firms to claim they have women partners but hide the fact that they are not promoting women into equity positions where they truly share in the profits and management decisions.

In October, the National Association of Women Lawyers came out with an revealing report:

  • It found that law firm structure has important effects on women's career paths and that they have a greater chance of becoming equity partner in one-tiered firms. Meanwhile, women are increasing clustered in positions with little opportunity for advancement in law firm leadership.

 

  • It also found women's compensation lags men's at all levels with the greatest
    discrepancy at the equity partner level, where women typically earn only 89% of
    what men make.
    The gap between the median compensation of male and female equity partners
    cannot be explained by differences in billable hours, total hours, or books of
    business.

 

Gillette says the ABA gender equity task force wants firms to rethink way they consider compensation, making it less subjective. A goal is to create a model law firm compensation policy to ensure women are paid equally to men.

“This has been sacred ground and firms don’t want anyone messing with compensation, but closed systems like Greenberg lead to mischief. We think putting transparency into compensation systems is imperative going forward,” she said.

Don't expect firms to readily buy in.

At Greenberg, all compensation decisions are made by CEO Richard Rosenbaum, with input from other shareholders.

Greenberg's Hilarie Bass said the firm’s compensation system has always been based on meritocracy that has nothing to do with gender. “We’re compensated based on value to clients and quality of our legal work. We prefer a closed system because it enables a more collegial atmosphere to exist.” Bass also said every year the the number of women who are big originators of new business increases as does the number of women who receive top compensation.

Still, with a closed system, it's difficult for women at the firm to confirm that to be true.

Gillette said this lawsuit may help Greenberg and other firms realize they need to work harder on getting more women into positions of leadership. While she acknowledges that there are some women lawyers who don't want to reach the top tier at their firms, she says many do. “We’ve been talking and begging firms to look at these issues for so long,” Gillette said. “I’m sorry it takes a lawsuit for firms to think about this but lawsuits are the only thing
lawyers understand." 

Do you believe gender discrimination is present at big law firms? How much of pay inequity and lack of advancement is from women pulling back, seeking better work life balance, and how much of it is the way law firms are managed and structured?

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Father’s Day lessons: Do working fathers get enough respect?

Jameson
(Above: Jameson Mercier and his two daughters)

Do dads get short shrift at work? When it comes to scooting out early to pick a kid up from summer camp or day care, are moms more likely to get accommodated? And, what about at-home dads…are they given the respect they deserve.

Over the weekend, I watched Kramer vs. Kramer. It has been a long time since I've seen the movie in which a just divorced man must learn to care for his son on his own, and then must fight in court to keep custody of him. Mr. Kramer loses his high paying job when child care issues pop up over and over. His boss doesn't think he's committed to his job. The movie, starring Dustin Hoffman and made in 1979, made me think about whether much has changed for dads.

Do dedicated dads balancing work and family get treated fairly in 2012?

That depends on who you work for but I would say we've seen improvement. For the most part, I think bosses understand work life conflict, and they're understanding — to a point.

I read some fascinating articles this weekend on dads pegged to Father's Day. Some of my favorites were about single dads, including one in the Augusta Chronicle which applauded those who are trying their best to be the best. I especially admire Miami Heat basketball star Dwyane Wade, who was profiled in a front page piece in The Miami Herald. Wade has a book coming out in September on his experiences with fatherhood after winning custody of his two boys from his ex-wife.

Even 30 years after Kramer vs. Kramer, I think its fair to say men are struggling as much as women to balance work and family. Technology has helped. Some employers are a tad more understanding than Mr. Kramer's boss when a dad may need to leave the office at 5 p.m. to take his kid to soccer practice but is willing to put in a few more hours after his kid goes to bed.

What I found fascinating was a piece in Working Mother, which devoted its June edition to dads. It says dads believe taking time off with the kids is a given. "Dads just matter of factly take the time they need and make sure they get their work done," said Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family who spearheaded The New Dad, a study of 900 working fathers. Career coach Caroline Ceniza Levine agrees "If dads need to be out of the office for a school event, they don't feel guilty or defend their choice: they're just out for an appointment."

Many Father's Day articles centered around the new trend toward at-home dads. A study from Harrington's center, called The New Dad: Right at Home,  shows married couples are making pragmatic decisions about who should stay home with the kids and sometimes, it's mom who commands the higher salary and greater earning potential so dad becomes the at-home parent.

I found examples of this in South Florida and wrote about it in The Miami Herald over the weekend. Fox News also reported on the trend with a headline that read: Mr. Mom Era: Stay-at-home
dads doubled over last decade.  

I was extremely touched by a piece in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on fathers who struggle with their child's autism diagnosis but found ways to embrace special needs parenting.

Clearly, the conversation about work life balance and family friendly employers has focused more on the working mother than the working father.  I think that's changing but we still have lots of room for improvement. Watch the clip below on Mr. Mom and you tell me if you think times have changed.

 

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act