Can the 'Me Too' Movement Jump-Start Diversity Initiatives in Legal Organizations?
In a cultural moment where women and people of color are calling attention to broad structural inequities creating harassment and wage gaps, the legal industry is finding its footing.
The national conversation on diversity and equity in the job market grew some major legs in 2017. Between increasing pressure to ensure equal job pay for women and people of color and the growing “Me Too” movement drawn from high-profile allegations of sexual harassment in the technology and media industries, the United States is seeing a particular renaissance around its diversity efforts.
While the cultural moment is generating a lot of momentum and discussion in many industries, the push for equity in the legal industry may take a little extra work. While law firms and corporate legal departments have made some strides in developing and retaining talented women and people of color as associates and leaders, that progress seems to have stagnated somewhat in the last few years. The number of minority lawyers at Am Law 200 firms and NLJ 250 firms grew only 0.6 percent between 2015 and 2016, and minority partnership grew only 0.4 percentage points to reach 8.6 percent in 2016.
Linda Bray Chanow, executive director of the Center for Women in Law (CWIL) at The University of Texas School of Law, has been working on trying to improve the prospects for women in Big Law for nearly 20 years. She sees a new opportunity in this cultural moment to ramp up the energy behind efforts to ensure that women and people of color have a larger place within legal industry leadership.
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