Last year, we were proud to kick off International Women’s day by spotlighting women who are pioneering incredible change in legal technology. In honor of International Women’s Day 2020, we are doing the same – but this time, we are celebrating the movement’s theme, #EachforEqual.
As the movement’s leaders proclaim, “an equal world is an enabled world,” that is, one in which we are all empowered to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden our perceptions, reduce disenfranchisement, and celebrate each other’s achievements. By doing so, each of us can work to create a world that champions women, as well as men, seeing them as each possessing inherent dignity and as deserving equal treatment in the workplace.
At UniCourt, we’re committed to furthering the mantra #EachforEqual by championing the women in our own organization, highlighting the accomplishments of women in legal tech, like Eve Barrett, Jodie Baker, and Dorna Moini, and spreading awareness of the various ways that promoting equality is good for everyone, from the courtroom to the boardroom to the public square.
Equality Is a Business Issue
Gender equality is more than just a social issue: It impacts business. This is because gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive. From the rapidly growing fair trade movement that prioritizes the sale of products made by women in developing countries, to a spike in the number of female executives in the Fortune 500, we’ve made progress. However, there is still work to be done to achieve gender-equal boardrooms, government chambers, courts, media, and sports teams. To be #EachforEqual, it is our duty to make this happen.
The legal system is notorious for its imbalance in gender representation. An April 2019 report from the American Bar Association shares sobering statistics. According to the report, as of last year:
- A mere 30 percent of Fortune 500 counsel are women;
- A paltry 35 percent of law school deans are female; and
- Only about 40 percent of judges are women.
Why are women so underrepresented? Pay parity (or lack thereof) certainly plays a significant role. Per the report, women’s salaries consistently lag behind their male counterparts’, with male partners pulling in paychecks up to 27 percent higher. Not to mention, the legal field is not known for being one of the more flexible industries. Particularly in litigation, associates and partners alike generally struggle to work remotely, as mediations, arbitrations, and court hearings still (for the most part) require physical presence. This makes it enormously difficult for young mothers to balance the dual demands of career and family, thus contributing to a mass exodus from the legal field to more family-friendly options like education and finance.
But there may be a more sinister side to this: Because the legal field is generally resistant to change, it only makes sense that male hegemony in the AmLaw and among the Fortune 500 would persist, making it harder for women to break in. According to the third annual installment of Crain’s New York Business report, “Notable Women in Law,” some believe that the disenfranchisement of women in the legal field is intentional rather than accidental. Reviewing the findings of the ABA’s recent survey on why senior women are fleeing the law, the report notes that “data show[s] that women in large firms have far less access than men to the building blocks of success. They have fewer business development opportunities, must contend with a pervasive perception that they are less committed to careers, and are significantly more likely to be overlooked for advancement or denied promotions.” It’s no wonder, then, that women are driven away.
Firms Are Stepping up to the Plate
However, there is hope: There is a movement among law firms that indicates they are aware of these issues and – better yet – have responded to pressure to make changes. Above the Law compiled a list of law firms that are known to create welcoming environments for women and mothers, considering factors like the availability of paid parental leave, flexible schedules, parent resources, and mentoring and inclusion programs. Simply stated, the forecast looks promising. Sixty global firms, including heavy-hitters like Baker Mackenzie and Dechert, feature as female-championing players in the legal marketplace.
Adding to the chorus of voices pressing the need to elevate and champion women, legal organizations far and wide are taking steps to intentionally recognize the accomplishments of women in different parts of the industry. Since 2015, the American Bar Association has recognized women leaders in legal tech with its annual “Women of Legal Tech” list, and this year’s 2020 list highlights several excellent leaders. Best Lawyers recently conducted a “Women in the Law” survey of the top 39 performers in corporate-facing practice areas, from bankruptcy to employment law. And Crain’s compiles profiles of what it calls “Notable Women in the Law” to celebrate gifted female lawyers.
Championing Leaders in Law
As we’ve seen, the terrain is shifting when it comes to female leadership in high-powered legal roles, and the future looks increasingly brighter for women working to make strides in their careers in 2020. Here at UniCourt, we support and champion women in all corners of the industry, from tech to startups to traditional legal practices.