Data showing women are 17 percent of equity partners at top law firms has elicited a predictable debate at Above The Law — blaming mothers, etc. More unusual: the writer's advice to women to refuse to work at male-dominated firms.
Basically, the numbers generally used are skewed because there are two types of "partners" at law firms: real ones and ones within a "multi-tier" system in which making partner is merely a name. Here's Elie Mystal's advice to female law students:
Sought-after women don't have to summer at firms that do not seem committed to promoting female equity partners. If you can get a job at Williams & Connolly, you can probably get a job at WilmerHale. And when you call up W&C to inform them that you are turning down that offer, tell them, "I saw the numbers of your female equity partners, and I was disgusted." Vote with your feet.
He compares this to segregation of African Americans:
Back in, say, 1950, if you were a black person and had a choice of living Alabama or Chicago, you were probably better off in Chicago. Not that there weren't horrible racial problems in Chicago, but at least you weren't living in a legally segregated society. By the same token, if you are a female law student who is approached by a firm with a multi-tier partnership structure, RUN. Kick off your heels and sprint barefoot away from the interview suite until you reach a safe place.
Staying on that arguably inappropriate analogy for a moment, it's also true that some of the black people who chose to stay in Alabama were responsible for creating the civil rights movement there that led to legal and political recognition of their rights.
Moreover, as one (unusually rational) commenter points out, "There is a bit of a logical flaw in Elie's advice: If women vote with their feet, and stay away from a firm that has low female partnership percentages, where is that firm going to get the women to promote?"
On the other hand, do you want to be the one who's trying to make a change but sacrifices your own mobility by banging your head on the glass ceiling?
Hard Stats About Female Equity Partners [Above The Law]
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