While the legal world is evolving, women remain a minority group among lawyers. In 2020, the American Bar Association (ABA) found that women only make up 37% of all lawyers in America. Further, while women make up about 47% of associates in law firms, women only make up about 31% of non-equity partners and 21% of all equity partners.
Unfortunately, a pay gap among women and men still exists, with the gap increasing the more women move up in a law firm. According to the ABA and the National Association of Women Lawyers, the average pay for women was 94% of the average pay for men in 2019 among associates, 89% of average compensation for men among non-equity partners, and 86% of the average compensation for men among equity partners.
What are women to do in the male-dominated legal industry?
Women must help other women and advocate for one another. Successful women should mentor the younger women coming up in the field, while younger women should seek out women mentors and learn from their successes and mistakes. Mentorship can often help build the confidence needed to succeed in a particular industry.
Speaking of building confidence, women should also display confidence. The more confidence a woman has, the more people tend to notice her. Often, women can lean into one of their strengths to assist in building and displaying confidence. Women usually can provide different perspectives, strengths, or experiences to a law firm or any job they have, so women should determine what sets them apart from the group and use that particular trait with confidence to their advantage.
Women should also try to join men in their own game. There are plenty of men who are allies with women and want to elevate women to successful positions. Be on the lookout for these men and ask for advice, mentorship, and opportunities.
Finally, women should be brave! Women should not be afraid to ask for what they want. Ask for the pay raise, the promotion, or the leadership role. In asking for something in particular, women should not be afraid to say why they are deserving of what they seek either. In doing so, women can continue to succeed in their law practice and will help the women coming up through the ranks to be successful too.
Mentorship and representation are key
Early in my career, I had two female attorney mentors who were instrumental in my success. Not only did they both provide meaningful learning experiences within the law practice, but both women were great examples of how to be a partner in a busy law firm, wives, daughters, and mothers of two young children. While their law practice may look a little different than their male counterparts, these women provided sound advice to me on what works for them.