X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
The recently released 2001 “Report Card for the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession” offers good and bad news about the status of women in the legal community. The good news: Pennsylvania’s percentages of women in the federal judiciary and in law firm partnerships are in line with national percentages reported in “The Unfinished Agenda: Women and the Legal Profession,” by the American Bar Association. The bad news: In both Pennsylvania and the nation, the percentages of women in the legal profession are steadily increasing, but the increases have not led to a proportional filtering of women into high-level positions. “I think what [the "Report Card"] continues to show is a very measured, steady process … which many of us would like to put our foot on the pedal and accelerate,” said Audrey Talley, a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath and vice chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association. “There is nothing like the black and white statistics to reveal the cold, hard reality,” said Leslie Ann Miller, former PBA president and a founder of the Commission on Women in the Profession and the “Report Card.” The “Report Card,” modeled after the ABA’s report card, contains mostly statistics and graphs, with very little commentary. The information presented in the state report was taken from anonymous surveys sent to district attorneys, public defenders and the 100 largest law firms. “People can take the statistics and make their own judgments,” said Bonnie Stein of Curtin & Heefner in Morrisville, Pa., a member of the report card committee during the first five of its seven years. “We were careful to put the facts in front of people … [and] let the facts speak for themselves … in an easily digestible format.” The “Report Card” shows that in the private sector, women constitute 28.4 percent of all lawyers, up from 27.1 percent in 2000. Women hold 5.1 percent of managing partnerships and 14.2 percent of all partnerships in the state. Nationally, women hold 5 percent of managing partnerships and 15 percent of partnerships, according to “The Unfinished Agenda.” The “Report Card” further says that women make up the following percentages in the following job categories: 13.8 percent of department heads, 40.8 percent of associates and 78.5 percent of part-timers. In the public sector, 38 percent of all lawyers in Pennsylvania district attorneys’ offices are women. Of the state’s 44 district attorneys, five, or 11.4 percent, are women. Of 39 public defenders, four are women, representing 10.3 percent of the total. While no women judges can be found in 41 of the state’s 67 counties, Lisa Detwiler of Lockwood Financial Group in Malvern, Pa., vice co-chairwoman of the PBA’s Commission on Women in the Profession, remains optimistic about the future and sees the judicial void as a potential opportunity for the advancement of women. Three of the five women on the 12-member 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are from Pennsylvania. “We now have a situation where women have opportunities in every sphere of the law,” said Carol Nelson Shepherd, a founding partner of Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter & Tanner and co-chairwoman of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s women in the profession committee. “There are tremendous strides that have been made, but there are still areas of concern.” THE UNFINISHED AGENDA The ABA’s “Unfinished Agenda,” published this past year, cites five main barriers for women in the legal profession: gender stereotypes, lack of support networks, inflexible workplace structures, sexual harassment and gender bias in the justice system. “I think [a major problem is the] cultural and societal bias that pervades the whole profession,” said Barbara Welsh, the “Report Card”‘s vice chairwoman and a former assistant district attorney in Lancaster. “Once that is broken down and women are in leadership positions, those stereotypes may slowly disappear.” Welsh said that having information such as that presented in the “Report Card” is one way to counter this bias. As The Legal Intelligencer also reported in its Women in the Profession supplement published in February, the ABA sees flex-time and part-time scheduling opportunities as possible solutions to allowing women to balance their professional and personal lives; often, many firms offer such options, but lawyers cannot realistically use them to their advantage. Shepherd said the balance between work and personal life is one area in which improvement is needed, not just for women but for lawyers in general. Today, Shepherd said, “there’s a little bit of a tension between the business of law and the business of being a person.” This sentiment is one that the Philadelphia Bar Association Survey from June 2000 echoes, with 41.5 percent of respondents, both men and women, saying that the “stress and long hours of my job are damaging to my health” and with 40 percent saying that “the stress and long hours of my job are disrupting my family and social life.” Rochelle Fedullo, a partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker and co-chairwoman of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s women in the profession committee, said that the retention of women in the legal profession is a major concern. According to “Women in Law: Making the Case,” the latest study by the women’s organization Catalyst, women plan to stay with their current employer three years less than men. Fedullo sees a lack of opportunity for part-time work as a major cause of women leaving the legal community, because women often find it difficult to manage motherhood and full-time careers. “If part-time positions were available in more places, I think more women would come back [to the legal community],” Fedullo said. Miller agreed that keeping women in the profession is an area of concern and cited the need for increased flexibility and adaptability in the legal community in moving away from the traditional structures of the legal practice. For example, Miller would like to see more nontraditional evaluations of women; specifically, by allowing part-timers to be considered for promotion to partner. “Many firms will not put a part-time woman on a partnership track, and that is wrong,” Miller said. As indicated by its title, “The Unfinished Agenda” emphasizes that the legal community cannot become complacent with the strides that have been made toward gender equality already — allowing what they call the “no problem” problem to set in. “Having actual statistics can correct the false impressions people may have in keeping the ‘no problem’ problem in check,” Welsh said. PHILADELPHIA AT THE TOP The growth of Philadelphia’s women lawyer population has doubled in the past 15 years, according to the Philadelphia Bar Association’s 2000 survey. The percentage of women attorneys in Philadelphia grew from 15.3 percent in 1984 to 33.5 percent as of June 2000. The proportion of women in the Pennsylvania Bar Association in each of the five counties in the Philadelphia area is comparable to the PBA’s statewide women membership of 25.3 percent. Interestingly, the “Report Card” shows a higher proportion of women in Pennsylvania’s Federal Judiciary in the Eastern District, compared with the national average of 15 percent. Women make up 21 percent of district judges, 30 percent of magistrate judges and 25 percent of bankruptcy judges in the district. “It’s a real cause for pride in this area, since the federal judicial process is political. … A lot of women have found support in the system in [the Eastern District],” Talley said. With the highest number of women judges in one county in the state, Philadelphia has 32 of the 76 women judges in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. With a wide distribution throughout Pennsylvania, Detwiler said the “Report Card” can be a valuable tool law firms can use to gauge how they fare in offering equal opportunities to women. “More than anything else, I think it is important to have a place to go to get this information,” Detwiler said. “This is the only place where this information exists in the commonwealth.” Shepherd said the annual report also keeps the legal community in Pennsylvania on track toward gender equality by offering a measurement of women’s advancement. “One of the things I think is very useful is to have [the "Report Card"] on an ongoing basis … since it gives a longitudinal view and not just a snapshot [of the profession],” Shepherd said. WHAT NEXT? Although it may be easy to say that more must be done, actually taking positive steps toward closing the gender gap continues to be difficult. However, one way that the PBA’s Commission on Women in the Profession is addressing women’s concerns in the workplace is through its proposal of a “Model for Alternative Work Schedules” to the PBA. The commission, in cooperation with the PBA’s quality of life task force, presented the proposal, which will serve as a guideline that firms can use to format their own flex- and part-time policies, to the PBA Board of Governors on March 1. It was approved by the PBA House of Delegates on May 11, making it an official policy of the PBA. In addition, the Philadelphia Bar Association’s women in the profession committee is in the middle of a three-part leadership series on issues concerning women and their careers. The first part, which took place June 15, featured motivational speaker Carol Washalyshyn. According to Shepherd, Washalyshyn said that “in order to compete in the talent war, which is [defined as] trying to find the best people, companies and firms are going to have to respond to the needs of younger individuals” by allowing them to have a balance of work and personal life. The second part, featuring former professional basketball player and author Mariah Burton Nelson, will be presented in October. Nelson, the author of “The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football,” will focus on the idea that the relationship between women, athletics and society can be a metaphor for women’s relationship to society and their workplace. The third part, the date of which is not set yet, will feature Deborah Tannen, a linguist who focuses on how men and women speak and conduct themselves differently. More information about the three-part series can be found on the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Web site. Change, Talley said, “really comes down to a matter of job-by-job.” “You still have to tackle [these problems] on each individual level,” she said. “It happens at an organized level and filters down.”

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.