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Statistics we can live with? I don’t think so!

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2015 | Firm News |

Chemistry in Hiring A recent opinion piece in the New York Times shows that hiring managers focus on personal fit rather than organizational fit when selecting new employees. The author and researcher, Lauren Rivera, explained that the interviewers tended to gravitate towards applicants that they felt would be fun to hang out with at and outside of work. In essence, chemistry between the applicant and interviewer was more important than qualifications or organizational fit. Since we gravitate to and are more comfortable with those who look like us, the resulting outcome is a monochromatic, predominantly masculine work place. But how do we reconcile this with long standing research that tells us that diverse teams and workplaces are more productive and creative?  Studies conducted by Robert L. Lattimer, Senior Fellow of Diversity Studies at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development (Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University) proves that diverse teams are more creative, raising different approaches to problem solving, providing varied knowledge bases and experience, and over all, demonstrating more objectively measurable productivity than non-diverse teams. While numbers are improving outside the legal profession, the news from within is dismal. In an article by Deborah Rhode, an author and law professor, she quotes statistics showing that 88% of lawyers are white. She makes the point that the legal profession staffs many top power positions in government and corporate America. (Deborah Rhode, Law is the least diverse profession in the nation. And lawyers aren’t doing enough to change that. , May 27, 2015.) Why then, in 2015, are we still looking at statistics such as women hold only 4% of the managing partnerships at the 200 largest national law firms, only 17% of equity partnerships, and only 20% of law partnerships in general.  Interestingly, women comprise of about 40% of new associate hires and 45% of summer associates hired. See A Current Glance at Women in The Law 2014,  Law schools are graduating classes with more than 50% women.  Statistics also show that while minorities (African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans) comprise of about 1/5th of law school graduates, they are only 7% of law firm partners and 9% of general counsels at large corporations. Surely, we are not to believe that of those 40-45% of women hired by law firms, that less than half of them were qualified for equity partnerships. Can it really be that the flip side is true? That of the 55% of men hired as associates, 83% of them are qualified for equity partnerships? No, I don’t accept those numbers and neither should you. Is it that our law firms and businesses just don’t get the message or are they unwilling to allow women into higher ranks involving profit sharing? Is this an unconscious decision or a concerted one? Or, is it that they believe that this imbalance really isn’t an issue at all? Regardless of your answer, these statistics have to change. So, what’s our plan of action?

  1. Increase Awareness of the Issue. Talk to your friends, colleagues, business partners etc. This is a dialogue worth having with anyone and everyone until you are satisfied with the cold hard numbers. The dialogue increases the awareness that this problem still exists and that change is needed.
  1. Stay in the game and fight for your spot. Some of the attrition, and hence, negative presumptions associated with having women in the higher ranks and leadership positions is that they will temporarily or permanently leave the workforce to have children and hence, are a poor risk and investment. We need to work to change that perception. The bottom line is that our clients and employers are not interested in having discussions about work-life balance or child care responsibilities. Don’t ask for special consideration for these reasons.
  1. Have a fair balance of parenting responsibilities. You can’t do it alone and that’s why most kids have two parents. Both parents should share an equal balance in parenting and responsibilities so that both can have the career they desire. Without this balance, one parent is being forced to take a back seat on their career so that the other parent, usually the male, can climb further. Hasn’t the time come to balance this equation?