A new study by the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) has found that women are grossly underrepresented in the upper echelons of the top U.S. law firms, where the major, top-notch legal rainmakers dwell. This study — the National Survey on the Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms — found that about half of the larger law firms in the U.S. had zero women amongst their top 10 rainmakers.
An additional 32% of law firms (!) report having only one female rainmaker at the top. Of course, statistics like these are indicative of an enduring trend women have been pointing out for years: despite slowly shifting gender roles, women still struggle to “have it all.”
Over at Slaw, Linda K. Robertston speculates as to why this might be.
One possible cause? The lack of opportunities for woman to network with potential clients in a casual environment. “If the male senior business leader has networked with a male lawyer at a hockey game, on the golf course or over drinks,” writes Robertson, “it may be that lawyer who springs to mind.” She then goes on to point out that it can be awkward for women to ask men to hang out at a hockey game or a bar, and vice versa, because the invitation might carry date-like overtones.
Another issue Robertson mentions is the lack of time female professionals have to develop new client relationships, because of all of the other responsibilities they juggle as wives and mothers. Despite growing numbers of female breadwinners and stay-at-home dads, traditional gender roles do continue to prevail.
Then there’s the possibility that rings truest: despite the gains women have made over the years to get ever closer to professional equality, women are still more reluctant than men to ask for what they want. This extends to include asking people in their own network for work.