EEOC Study Shows Progress of Women and People of Color Among Legal Professionals
WASHINGTON - A new study by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) entitled "Diversity in Law Firms" reveals that women now comprise 40% of legal professionals (resembling associates) in the private sector, a significant gain from 14% nearly three decades ago. In addition, since 1975, African Americans doubled their employment as legal professionals to over 4%, Hispanics more than doubled to 3%, and Asian representation rose by five times to 6.5%. The report was issued today by EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez during a speech to a national conference of the American Bar Association (ABA) on "Opening the Pipeline."
"While we should certainly be proud of the progress women and people of color have made in joining the ranks of legal professionals, we must also be mindful of how far we have to go," said Chair Dominguez. "The Commission continues to proactively cultivate its relationship with the ABA and other industry groups to ensure that the diversity of America is reflected in and sought by the legal profession. We must all make a constant, unwavering effort to ensure that our nation's law firms are open and inclusive to all individuals."
ABA President Dennis W. Archer said: "I view the business community, and in particular corporate general counsels, working in tandem with government leaders, as key motivators to change the culture of the legal profession to match broader society."
The purpose of the EEOC study is to examine the employment status of women and people of color at law firms required to file EEO-1 "Employer Information Reports" breaking down the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of an employer's workforce by job classification. The research covers medium and large law firms as only employers with 100 or more employees are required to file EEO-1 reports. Specifically, it examines changes in employment of people of color and women as attorneys since 1975. The full text of the study is available online at www.eeoc.gov.
The study also looks at the relationship between firm characteristics and the employment of people of color and women. Results suggest that the most pressing equal employment issue in large national law firms is no longer hiring but conditions of employment, especially promotion to partnership. In smaller, regional and local law firms, questions about the fairness and openness of hiring practices probably still remain, particularly for lawyers of color. Other cited research suggests potential problems for women and people of color in attrition and earnings. The study supplements EEO-1 analyses with sample data and finds that women and people of color have lower odds of being partners than white males.
In addition to the gains of women and people of color in their representation among legal professionals at medium and large law firms, the study also shows:
During her speech to the ABA, Chair Dominguez also identified the following steps that law firms can take to increase the employment of women and people of color:
Additionally, Chair Dominguez strongly encouraged law firms to provide more employment opportunities for lawyers with disabilities. "Misunderstandings about disability from concerns about the cost of reasonable accommodations to unfounded fears about performance and reliability have prevented many qualified lawyers with disabilities from even being considered for jobs within the legal profession," she said.
Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on October 22, 2003.
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