Legal Eagles Fly Unequally

Dec 14 2010 Published by under Feminist Musings, Politics

Blindfolded so the d00ds can pay her less.

This morning's update from Little Pink Book addressed pay inequality among legal professionals:

It’s a fact: hard-working women in many fields (like law) make significantly less than their male counterparts. A recent study found, even while juggling demands at home, women lawyers work the same hours as men, but with less pay. And while about half the associate law hires in the past two decades were women, less than 15 percent became partners.

I repeat for emphasis: women lawyers work the same hours as men, but with less pay...

So what do they recommend? The first suggestion dismayed me:

“Women should not be afraid to take chances,” says Margaret Strange, Attorney at Law at Jackson Lewis LLP. “Look for areas that will be developing down the road and create an early expertise.”

So women should become more expert? While working the same hours as their male counterparts for less pay? Because only if you are better than a man can you be paid the same? Are we really going to fall into this trap again, that somehow it is our fault?

While becoming an expert in "the next big thing" may produce financial rewards, it does not guarantee equal pay! If you want to do that, fine, but equity should not be contingent on special skills. Equal pay for equal work is fair and right!

The post redeems itself, going on to discuss the need for women to follow pay information standards for their fields and regions. This activity will let you know if your salary falls in the correct ballpark; it will not tell you how you compare to the d00ds at your firm. Perhaps the time has come for true salary transparency, and another blog on the LPB website discusses this issue.

Women have to keep pushing at barriers and demanding fair treatment. We cannot assume that if only we were better trained or more prepared (or had glass slippers and a fairy godmother), then we would be noticed and rewarded. That's been the game plan for at least 20 years, and women still lack representation in politics, corporate boards, law firms, and academia.

Vision2020 is a decade of action to promote full equality of women in every aspect of life in the US. Click over and explore their site; it includes webcasts about women in America in every facet of life. If you care about the lack of women in leadership in the US, sign the Declaration of Equality.

Image courtesy of PhotoXpress.

9 responses so far

  • jc says:

    The more expert women become, the less likely those women will be accepted by men who are not forced to be expert, not forced to be More, and are threatened by her expertness. The "Be more" bullshit line hurled at women is NOT a way of advancing equality. It's another illusion. And it's another way of saying that You Are Not Enough (Male) So You Must Work Extra. Do A, B, and C and men will magically hand over 30 cents more per woman dollar. HAH!

    "Look for areas that will be developing down the road" means go dig around the margins some more because as a woman, you are not marginalizing yourself enough. Stay off the main field where the men congregrate to piss. Be a pioneer! Forge a new path! Awesome! And then what? Here's what. Those same women pioneers who worked on the margins for years and years in different fields on topics no men were working in will be left in the cold because the men determine that the women still lack experience and training doing what the men were doing on the field all along.

    My advice: Women can't go at it alone on the margins as pioneers. The mainstream men will shun you, which doesn't help when women are looking for jobs and career advancement. WOMEN NEED THE SUPPORT OF FEMINIST MEN AND WOMEN to light the path for those coming up the line. Find supporters, find good groups of non-discriminatory workers and leaders, and go that route. It's like finding needles in haystacks. The goal is to find haystacks with far more than one needle in it, which are rare themselves.

  • FrauTech says:

    I have to say I'm tired of being told women need to "take more risks" than men when that's not rewarded. My male colleagues constantly chide me for not being "patient" enough. I watch less qualified males be given promotions and high level responsibility, but me I am being uppity or demanding if I even mention I would like the same (though I'm not phrasing it in a male/female way obviously, that would mean they'd call me a b@#$ and stop listening to me).

    Or I hate the advice that women need to ask for raises. I've asked for a raise 2-3 times a year for the last three and as they said in Gone With the Wind, askin' ain't gettin'.

  • bluefoot says:

    This is really disheartening. I keep seeing this, though: women are paid less, do not get mentorship, official or otherwise, are not included in decion-making or high-profile pojects, and are promoted more slowly than similarly productive and qualified men.

    This whole "women should take more chances" or find additional expertise on the margins smacks strongly to me of the "glass cliff." Bascially the glass cliff describes the phenomenon that when women do get high-ranking jobs, those positions either carry a high risk of failure or are otherwise more inherently precarious than other similarly ranked positions (that their male counterparts get).

  • Pascale says:

    My favorite is when a woman has received some grooming but never lives up to expectations. I recently asked someone who was criticizing a leadership development program what new responsibilities they gave women after the program to utilize their skills. He looked surprised and said none. Gee, I wonder why they failed to achieve any more?

  • I *highly* recommend the book Women Don't Ask, by Linda Babcock & Sara Laschever. It details how women are raised in this society to not ask for things for themselves. It gives insights into why a lot of us behave in the ways we do, and has suggestions for how to overcome some of these societal issues.

    I realize that many women feel like they shouldn't have to do anything to obtain equality- and while I appreciate such a sentiment, I also enjoyed reading the book because I felt like I could take some of the matter into my own hands.

    • WhizBANG! says:

      That is a great book.

    • FrauTech says:

      Worth mentioning though the studies that show that women who do ask are punished. Women who try to negotiate are looked upon disfavorably. I agree women might have to go out of their way more then a man who "looks" the part and might be more likely to be handed the role, but trust me I've been ambitious and have asked and asked again, for things completely reasonable. I'm either criticized for not being patient, loyal or greatful enough for what I already have.

      • jc says:

        I've had the same experience. I was blown off when I asked for a raise (yearly), I was told I could Work More Hours with the company or do a part-time teaching gig because the response was that I "wanted more spending money" which doesn't mean jack shit when it comes to a performance-based raise. I guess when men asked for raises it was justifiable because the response had something to do with being a breadwinner with mouths to feed. Grrrrrrrr.

        I read the book years ago, and a zillion books for women in the workplace. The critical thing is that women cannot go at it alone. There has to be a support system. With postdocs and students moving around constantly, the academic lifestyle sets women up to have to prove themselves to a whole new set of dudes every time, from ground zero. Men pick up and leave off where there were, not at ground zero, because they are given the benefit of the doubt by the boys club.

    • WhizBANG! says:

      The "asking" part of Women Don't Ask is important, especially for start-up packages. I know I was so *grateful* to have a job in the same city as my spouse that as long as the offer was reasonable, I wasn't going to complain. I'm sure fresh out of fellowship dudes entering at the same time got better packages because they asked for them.

      At other times I have asked, and been denied. Sometimes for a good reason, but most often because "we just can't do that right now." This is generally code for "some dude needs the money."

      Le sigh.

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