ABA red_high_heels_for gender equity

The ABA’s using these shoes to try to inject some more equality into the legal profession.

Hard on the heels of yesterday’s story of a remarkable woman, I offer another story—that also involves kicking up your heels.

As the American Bar Association annual meeting approaches, that organization has been trumpeting the work of its Gender Equity Task Force. (Besides great information, the website also includes free publications.)

Here, the ABA describes the group and then seeks action:

“Study after study has shown that women—in particular those in law firm practice—are not compensated at the same level as men. In August 2012, ABA President Laurel G. Bellows appointed a blue-ribbon Task Force on Gender Equity with a call to action for concrete movement in the issues of equity in the workplace and a principal focus on compensation.”

“You can help raise awareness of these critical issues by joining the ‘Click Your Heels’ virtual march for gender equity.”

ABA logoTo vote “with your feet”:

  1. Go to the Task Force website here.
  2. Click the vote button to the right of the red shoes.

Why is it important to “click your heels” for gender equity? The ABA explains:

“The visuals of hundreds of thousands of people descending on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and the sea of people coming together for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 have become iconic representations of people standing in concert to effect change. While nothing can ever replace the historic transcendence of that day, in this new millennium a virtual voice carries the same power and ability to effect change as a physical presence.”

gender_equality symbol“As in 1963, people of today still struggle with the ability to be treated equally in the work place. What is gender equity? It is equal pay for equal work. It is paternity leave without stigma. It is flexible time to meet personal and family needs, while still being able to participate and make a productive contribution to the work place. It is the recognition of the differences between men and women without diminishing the value and contribution each person provides. In a word, it is ‘fairness.’”

This all is timely not just because of the ABA meeting, but because the ABA’s Day of the Woman is on August 10, 2013. (More information on Day of the Woman events is here.)

(You can also follow @ABAGenderEquity on Twitter.)

When you click, you can see how many others have done the same. What number are you?

gender equality scale in the legal professionRecent news articles suggest that we may have quite a ways to go in regard to gender equity in the legal profession. (Cue the women lawyers, who mutter “Really?” in mock surprise.)

The first article reports on some discouraging trends that affect women lawyers. The study was done by the National Association of Women Lawyers, and the article notes:

“The Survey once again found that women’s compensation lags men’s at all levels, although this year the gap between male and female equity partner compensation has slightly narrowed.  NAWL Foundation President Stephanie Scharf, a Partner at Scharf Banks Marmor LLC in Chicago, who founded the NAWL Annual Survey, noted that ‘the gap between male and female compensation at the equity partner level does not correlate with male/female differences in billable hours, total hours or books of business, begging the question of how firms actually set compensation for their partners.’”

The complete news story provides some striking findings from the study. And you can read the entire study here.

Adding to the findings of that October report, I came across another recent article, this one in Forbes, that puts a more specific face on the challenges women may face.

Titled “Your First Name Is Killing Your Business,” the article’s author Victoria Pynchon writes:

“If we want work or more money for the work we’re already doing, it would be better for us to adopt a male name than to earn another degree, work longer hours, or, deliver higher quality work product.”

Drawing on the comments of Bloomberg financial analyst Susan Antilla, Pynchon points out that people think better of applicants when they have a male name.

Adding to the challenges that lawyer–parents face, an article I read just this morning is titled “Parenting Gets the Best of One Biglaw Associate.” In it, the author shares an email from one large-firm associate—who is also a young, married mother—as she describes why she is opting out of biglaw practice.

As author Elie Mystal opens the article, “It shouldn’t be so damn hard—in the richest country on Earth—to have a big-time job and be a loving parent. The struggles highlighted by this woman make me sad as a new parent myself.”

(Hat tip to lawyer Graham Martin for pointing me toward the ATL article. And thank you to the terrific dialogue on the LinkedIn page of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, which got me on this trail in the first place.)

Findings and data and experiences such as these rightly anger women lawyers and those who support their work. Does the research match your own experience? What do you think are the next major obstacles that must be overcome to achieve something closer to parity?

Today is the happy anniversary of a significant legal event: On June 4, 1919, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was enacted. The “suffrage amendment” prohibited voting discrimination based on sex.

It is a coincidence that the remarkable milestone coincides with the release yesterday of important salary data in Arizona. But the two may be related as a view into Americans’ shifting views of gender equity.

 Yesterday, the Arizona Republic released the results of its latest data on the highest-paid executives of Arizona public companies. The paper says that it has compiled these numbers for about the past 15 years.

I don’t know if readers eagerly await the story, though I’d guess it gives the Occupy Movement palpitations. But it is an intriguing view into the corporate world and its ups and downs.

I am one of those increasingly rare folks who get a newspaper subscription, so I was able to read Russ Wiles’ story while sitting at my kitchen table. It was well written and insightful.

But I also am curious about the digital delivery of news, and so last night I surfed over to azcentral.com, home of the Republic and of the local NBC affiliate Channel 12. There, I could see that the delivery left a lot to be desired—even given azcentral’s poor track record.

You may disagree and find azcentral to be all an online newspaper should be. However, I find it a very often unsearchable morass. And this time was no exception. And it got worse than the poor search function.

As in the print newspaper’s strong front-page tease, the salary story got prominent play up top in azcentral (more on that in a minute). The print version followed that up with significant coverage, beginning at D1 and covering almost two more full pages.

Online was more of a slog, though. Clicking the home-page link took you not to Russ’ article, but to a slideshow-type demon that let you click through, one-by-one, all the Arizona executives who earned $4 million or more last year.

Oddly, the slideshow was not broken out between highly paid CEOs and highly paid non-CEOs; they were lumped together (unlike the print paper, which had separate helpful tables).

Nor was the slideshow accessible except in a cumbersome linear way. It began, much to my surprise, with the lowest-paid executive who made $4 million—rather than with the highest-paid executive, who made $82 million.

That’s a generous little gift from the Republic to the one-percent, don’t you think? Online viewers will never take the time to scroll through more than 100 names and bios to find out who is atop the sedan chair (that would be Richard Adkerson, whose mining giant Freeport-McMoRan dished $82 million his way).

Also strange, there is no easy link to Wiles’ actual analysis. Readers curious about what it all means have to search for the story. Of course, they wouldn’t have the benefit print-readers do and know the reporter’s name. Good luck to the nonsubscribers. Here is the story online.

My biggest surprise, though, is one I’ve saved for last.

As I read the Sunday paper, more than one family member looked at the story on D1 and remarked that the biggest salaries went to—surprise—a whole lot of white men. In fact, the paper included 10 small head-shots, and they were as described.

When I got to the azcentral home page, though, a different set of images greeted me: four head-shots, one of whom was a woman.

That page disappeared quickly, so I was sure to save us a screen shot. Here it is.

Because it’s azcentral, there was no helpful photo cutline, so I had to research who the woman was. Fortunately, she’s at the “low end” of the pay scale, so it took me just two clicks to discover that it was Kimberly McWaters, CEO of Universal Technical Institute. She logged in at $4.1 million.

I’m sure the writing and reporting staff have nothing to do with azcentral’s design, but it caused me to wonder: What does the casual web-reader think when they see a story tease about large executive compensation, and 25 percent of the images are of a woman?

That’s misleading, to say the least.

By the Republic’s own data:

  • McWaters was ranked as number 14 out of 52 public company CEOs.
  • She is the only woman CEO in that list of 52 people.
  • And when we include the “highly paid non-CEOs” who earn more than McWaters, she comes in at spot 28 out of 116.
  • By setting the slideshow’s cutoff at $4 million, the online version ensured that there was a woman CEO in the mix.

(To Wiles’ credit, he highlighted the fact that a non-CEO woman—Kathleen Quirk, CFO at Freeport McMoRan—was paid $6.8 million. Her photo did not appear on the home page.)

So you’ve got to wonder: Was the photo of the sole woman CEO cherry-picked by the designers to lend some diversity to a story where there was little? Do standards of accuracy apply online as well as in the print paper?

Given that more and more people are getting their news entirely from digital sources, let’s hope so.

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