08 March 2022

The women in law by the numbers

In view of today's date March 8th, International Women's Day, we take the opportunity to review, the transparency and recognition of figures. Because at the end of the day, feminism as a social strife becomes a question of numbers, a question of representation.

We find ourselves before a society that has left far behind (as much as the French Revolution!), the delegitimization of patriarchy and the establishment of a political system with liberal and egalitarian tendencies; but in which a true representative democracy and citizen participation of all interest groups in the institutions have not yet been achieved. And that is why feminism must endure without pause until arriving to a naturally fair situation of opportunities, recognition and respect.

We start by looking at the US, from two studies made in 2020, the first by the American Bar Association on law schools and the second by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association on diversity inside law firms. As for the results, we see that in the academic field, women were 54.5% of those enrolled in law school and 51.5% of graduates that year; On the other hand, in the workplace, women came to represent 36.9% of all lawyers in the country, but of those just 47.3% were associates and only 22.3% were partners in an equal position. Finally, the wage gap remains notable in the US: the average weekly earnings range from $1,665 in the case of female lawyers in contrast to $2,324 for the male, according to the survey conducted in 2021 by the US Bureau of Statistics.

When comparing to Europe, the reality of women in the legal profession is not very different, according to the statistics of the CCBE (Council of European Lawyers) show from 2018: in France 55.4% of lawyers are women, in the United Kingdom the 49% and in Germany the figure drops to 35.9%, to give a few examples.

The UK government published last summer the annual report on diversity in the judicial world, where it is reflected that there is greater disparity in what concerns partnerships. Thus, 33% of women lawyers are also partners, but only 25% of them are equity partners; however, on the bigger picture the number gets reduced to a 13.8% of female partners, which shows that in positions of greater responsibility and power, women are underrepresented. Likewise, it can also be seen in this report that women with more than 19 years of experience do not seem to remain in the profession in the same way as their male counterparts do, explaining what happens when starting families.

Now yes, when contemplating these figures, it may seem that there are many more women lawyers than ever, but this does not mean that they are satisfied with the current circumstances of the law industry. We can appreciate from the numbers that there are multiple pay gaps, but there are also gender-related biases and daily challenges that men don't normally have to face. To mention an example, The American Lawyer reported that 82% of women in law who responded to the American Bar Association's annual survey (2021) about the practice of law, acknowledged to have been confused as lower-level employees.

But remembering Hans Rosling "we are wrong about the world and things are doing better than we think"; Rather, it could be pointed out that what is wrong is our way of looking at the world... Great progress has been made with regard to the situation of women, visible in the growth of the percentages on academic and labor spheres, and Although there is still a long way to go, it is also convenient to commemorate and even celebrate each success that the stubborn fight of so many women along history has achieved so far.

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