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The article below has been republished in full courtesy of Law360, written by Aebra Coe.
Female lawyers work on average four more hours a week than their male counterparts do, are more likely to not have children and are vastly more likely to work part time or leave the profession altogether once they do have a child, according to a Harvard Law School survey of its graduates, released Monday.
Results of the extensive survey of Harvard Law School’s 1975, 1985, 1995 and 2000 graduating classes regarding their career trajectories suggest a number of gender disparities exist between the women and men who hold the prestigious Harvard juris doctorate and a number of common truisms — for instance that women work fewer hours than their male counterparts — are not true, at least among this specific subset of lawyers.
“It is painfully evident that female lawyers still bear the overwhelming burden of the legal profession’s continuing struggles to integrate work and family,” the study’s authors said.
The survey was conducted by the school’s Center on the Legal profession in 2009 and 2010 on the four classes of Harvard Law School graduates, and according to Monday’s report, 35 percent of those asked to participate responded to the survey. It is titled “The Women and Men of Harvard Law School: Preliminary Results from the HLS Career Study” and was authored by David B. Wilkins, Bryan Fong and Ronit Dinovitzer.
The survey results contradict a number of commonly-held beliefs, including the idea that female lawyers, or women in professional roles in general, work fewer hours than their male counterparts. According to the report, female graduates employed full time in law firms worked on average 52 hours per week versus 47.8 hours for men.
“At least with respect to HLS graduates, therefore, the story that women tend to work fewer hours than men is more myth than reality. This differential input casts their relative success in achieving partnership in a somewhat different light,” the report said.
The survey also drew attention to the number of women leaving law and to the reasons behind their departures. One factor contributing to those dropout rates identified by the study was whether they had a child.
According to the results, the percentage of female partners who have no children, 24 percent, is twice as large as the percentage of male partners with no children. Second, while most partners — almost three-quarters — have two or more children, men are significantly more likely than women to be in that category.
Additionally, women were far more likely than men to decide to work part time after having a child, according to the survey results. Eighty-four percent of the women who responded said they had decided to work part-time after having a child versus 16 percent of men, and a similarly drastic disparity existed between the numbers of women and men who reported leaving their current job or the workforce altogether after having a child.
“Whether purely as a matter of voluntary choice — or, as is often the case, a choice made in the shadow of what women reasonably believe is possible given the expectations of employers and society — the fact that so many talented women lawyers are not working full-time, particularly at a time when the demand for talented and highly credentialed lawyers to tackle the complex problems facing the world today is so high, represents both a lost opportunity and a potentially looming crisis,” the report’s authors concluded.
The above article has been republished in full and is courtesy of Law360. For the latest breaking news and analysis on energy industry legal issues, visit Law360 today.
I am glad to see that some research has been conducted to debunk the myth that female attorneys do not work as much as male attorneys. Hopefully, firms will start doing more to make it easier for women to continue to work full time and have children. I work at a small firm that allows employees to bring children to work if they need to. This seems to really help when children are young as child care is so expensive.