Members concerned over survey results By Lisa M. Wolfe For The Lawyers Journal In September 2005 the Allegheny County Bar Association's Gender Bias Subcommittee distributed a survey to all active ACBA members in order to update statistics gathered during the bar's 1990 membership survey. The 2005 survey showed that little change has occurred for women in the legal profession over the past 15 years. "The results of this survey commissioned by our Women in the Law Division are very disappointing," said Hon. Kim Berkeley Clark, president of the Allegheny County Bar Association. "While female attorneys continue to help positively shape the efforts of the legal community in Allegheny County and rise to prominent positions, the survey results show no improvement overall in the pay and compensation between male and female attorneys." "The results of our first survey 15 years ago were to be used as a benchmark for future surveys. Obviously, the bar was set low 15 years ago and it looks like it hasn't risen. We must determine what actions are needed to remedy the situation. We understand this will not be a quick-fix issue, but we fully understand that this is an issue that cannot be ignored." "We were baffled by the results of the survey," said Jonnie Joseph, chair of the Women in the Law Division. "We knew there were problems and that there were lots of unresolved gender bias issues, but I don't think we knew that the difference would be as statistically visible as it is." The survey had a 21 percent return rate. According to Virginia Tomlinson, an associate professor of sociology at Westminster College and one of the researchers who performed statistical analyses for the survey, comparisons of the demographics of survey respondents showed a return that was representative of the ACBA's overall membership in terms of gender and years in practice. The survey's results showed that despite the fact that men and women are working virtually the same number of hours per week, 48.5 v. 48.25, women are earning significantly less than men. While 20 percent of men earn more than $250,000 per year, only five percent of women earn more than $250,000 per year. No female graduates from the 1990s are earning more than $250,000 per year, but 10 percent of male law school graduates from the 1990s are earning more than $250,000 per year. The survey also found that women earning $300,000 or more per year work, on average, 10 hours more per week than men in the same income category. Graduates from the country's top 10 law schools face the same income gap. While no female graduates from top 10 schools have reached the $250,000 per year income threshold, 35 percent of male graduates from top 10 law schools earn more than $250,000 per year. "I am shocked and angry about the survey results," said Carol Mills McCarthy, a partner with McCarthy, McDonald, Schulberg & Joy. "In 1990, we thought that such flaws in the system would change on their own, but they haven't. It's not that Allegheny County attorneys are bad, it's just that we're no different than the rest of the country." Federal Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan is co-chairing the newly formed Gender Equality Task Force with Gary Hunt. The task force was formed to analyze, discuss and drill down into the issues uncovered by the survey. Lenihan concurs with McCarthy's opinion regarding the survey's results. "I have to say I was not surprised 15 years ago, because the results of that survey confirmed both my experiences and the experience of others I knew," said Lenihan. "I truly expected to see an improvement with this survey. I'm very disappointed about the fact that the survey indicates no improvement at all." Along with the difference in salaries for men and women practicing in Allegheny County, the survey results also showed that women are twice as likely to be dissatisfied with their employment situation as men. Because of this, it is not surprising to learn that while 70 percent of men would choose law as a profession again if given the choice, only 54 percent of women would do the same. While approximately 60 percent of women responding to the survey believed that discriminatory conduct always or sometimes affected their professional career development, only 10 percent of the men responding believed discriminatory conduct had affected their professional career development. According to David Blaner, ACBA Executive Director, it is important for the bar association to address the survey's findings because they are impacting the 1,700 members of the WLD. "Much like the ongoing diversity initiative, we need to ensure that issues affecting women are reviewed, analyzed and addressed by the task force," said Blaner. Members of the Gender Equality Task Force are already at work collecting information and identifying best practices to determine how gender equality and equity can be improved for attorneys in Allegheny County. "It is very encouraging that the bar association recognized the importance of this issue and has undertaken to form this task force to deal with it," said Hunt, managing partner at Tucker Arensberg. "The legal community leadership has been extremely responsive in a very positive way when they were asked to serve on the task force. The task force is large and every person identified as a potential member volunteered to serve. This shows the commitment of our legal community to tackle this issue." The task force will be performing further analysis of the survey in the upcoming months. The task force will be looking behind the numbers to ensure that all issues are understood. Areas the task force will examine include working to discover who did and did not respond to the survey. This information will assist the task force in determining whether "self selection" could have impacted the survey's results. The task force has been broken down into four subcommittees. According to Hunt and Lenihan, one subcommittee will be contacting law firms and corporate law departments, both locally and nationally, in order to gather information to address areas mentioned in the survey. The other three subcommittees will be examining different sections of the survey, including "Work Life," "Satisfaction" and "Perceptions and Attitudes," and will use information compiled by the information gathering committee to develop best practices for each specific area. According to Ken Gormley, ACBA President-elect and a constitutional law professor at Duquesne University School of Law, the task force is looking for best practices that have been established by employers over the past two decades. The members of the task force hope to spur movement forward to build on the positive foundations that have been built by many Allegheny County employers. "We do not want to lose sight of the fact that despite the poor results in areas such as compensation and salary, a lot of good things have happened in the past 15 years, including job sharing, part-time status, and new technology that allows work to be done outside the office," said Hunt. "We want to talk with our law firms and in-house legal departments about their best practices." Gormley believes that job sharing and working from home are just a few things that employers have done to open the doors to a broader range of opportunities for men and women. "We want to do everything possible to ensure that the progress in this area is facilitated rather than hampered in any way," said Gormley. "At the same time, there are clear issues when it comes to women having equal opportunities in law firms, especially when it comes to major cases, major responsibilities and the opportunity to engage in rainmaking." "I think over the past 15 years the bar has become more conscious of life outside the practice of law," said McCarthy, who served as the WLD's first chair in 1988. "Women have continued to enter the practice. Many had different needs than attorneys in the past and slowly, changes have been made that have benefited both men and women." "However, slow change is not okay because slow change results in lost talent. Over the past 15 years, talented people have left the profession because wehaven't changed fast enough. We must be consciously making an effort to change in order to keep talented and educated people in the legal profession." Lenihan believes that as the task force moves forward with its mission to make the legal community aware of importance of gender equality issues, firms will be able to develop ways to create family and life friendly workplaces, not just for female attorneys but for all attorneys. "This is a good business decision for firms because they will be able to enhance the profession in general by improving morale and attracting and retaining high quality attorneys," said Lenihan. "Lawyers need to be good lawyers, but also good citizens and good family members and the work of the task force will help us move in this direction." The results of the survey can be viewed on the ACBA's website at www.acba.org. n