6 Reasons For Gender Differences At The Top Of The Legal Profession

Male Worker Outbalancing A Female White Collar“See I know you can’t help me Mr. Intentional / The only help I need to live is unprofessional / The only wealth I have to give is not material / And if you need much more than that, I’m not available.” — Lauryn Hill

On Wednesday, Harvard Business Review’s Francesca Gino and and Alison Wood Brooks published an article titled, “Explaining Gender Differences at the Top,” which examined why women are underrepresented in most senior-level leadership positions across various industries. They noted that women make up “less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs, less than 15% of executive officers at those companies, less than 20% of full professors in the natural sciences, and only 6% of partners in venture capital firms.”

As noted by Julie Triedman of The American Lawyer, here is a more extensive list of women representation in leadership positions across various industries (with the percentage of women leaders in parentheses):

  • Nonprofit CEOS: 45%
  • Fortune 10 company executive officers: 19.8%
  • CPA partners: 17%
  • Commissioned military officers: 17%
  • Architecture firm principals or partners: 17%
  • Fortune board directors: 16.9%
  • Law firm equity partners: 16.8%
  • Top 10 tech company CEOs: 16.6%
  • Investment bank executives: 11%
  • Venture capital partners: 6%

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Differentiating Diversity Goals From Quotas In The Legal Profession

“This morning, I woke up / Feeling brand new, I jumped up / Feeling my highs and my lows / In my soul and my goals.”Talib Kweli

Last week, I wrote about McKinsey & Company’s 2015 Diversity Matters Report. In my post, I wrote diversity-300x199that to foster a successful diversity program, McKinsey recommends for an organization to: i) create a clear value proposition for having a diverse and inclusive culture; and ii) set a few clear targets (not quotas) that balance complexity with cohesiveness.

Several readers have asked me, what the difference is between goals and quotas? Is it possible for a law firm to share clear numerical targets that would not be considered quotas? In the public education arena, Carnegie Mellon University has stated:

Are affirmative action goals merely targets that the university should aim for, or are they really inflexible hiring quotas that must be met—even if it means hiring women or minorities over equally or better qualified others?

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