A report released this week by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that women continue to be underrepresented in the higher echelons of major US law firms, despite having strong law school graduation rates and making notable gains in other areas of the legal profession. In 2002, women represented 48 percent of people earning law degrees–up from 33 percent in 1982. However, only 13 percent of partners at the surveyed 1,200-medium to large-sized US firms (over 100 employees) are female. Lauren Stiller Rikleen, senior partner at the firm Bowditch & Dewey and member of the Boston Bar Association task force studying work-study issues in law, told the Boston Globe, “Unfortunately, discrimination remains alive with respect to women in the workplace… It’s much more subtle than it used to be, but is still a barrier.” In many instances, employers are reluctant to implement organizational changes that better accommodate women who juggle work and family.
Progress for minorities also remains slow. Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians account for only 4 percent, 3 percent, and 6.5 percent, respectively of employees in the legal profession, including attorneys, accountants, lobbyists.