Much has been written and discussed about women leadership and advancement. It is still a fact that women advance more slowly than their male counterparts because men are more likely than women to ask for prestigious opportunities that will raise their visibility. Women’s economic and intellectual power is significant. According to the Census Bureau women in the U.S. will outnumber men during the first half of the century from 5.3 million in 2000 to 6.9 million in 2050. Women’s earning and investment power is substantial. Studies have shown time and time again that organizations that know how to leverage women leadership talent within their ranks show a positive impact on the bottom line.
According to ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession, women make up the majority of law school graduates. Yet, men still hold the majority of leadership positions in the profession. The following barriers are still prevalent:
- Gender Stereotypes
- Lack of Mentorship and Business Development Training
- Lack of Work Life Balance
- Cultural Stereotypes for Multicultural Women
These are real concerns and issues. Looking at diversity and women leadership merely from a representative view will not solve the problem. Law firms need to go deeper and take a close look at their cultural and organizational structure, their value system, and biases that determine how business is conducted. In conclusion, it is individual perception that influence the collective system. Therefore, the power is in the hand of each and every one to equip themselves with the proper tools to transcend the barriers imposed by the firm, gender stereotypes, and family life.
Women have graduated top of their class and may have just closed a great deal that could propel them upward. Yet, all of them feel undervalued and underappreciated by the firms that employ them. They decide to leave because their needs are not met. Many firms today have established a formal diversity initiative but still fail to recognize that diversity and inclusion goes beyond representation and encompasses the understanding of increased perspectives and approaches that impact how we do business.
Instead this great potential of female entrepreneurship is left untapped as firms don’t avail of it. The Board and Leadership Committees continue to be underrepresented by women. The benefits of promoting women goes far beyond financial measures to encompass learning, organization and individual growth and the ability for firms to adjust fast and successfully to global market changes.
This requires fundamental change in the attitudes and behaviors of a firm’s leadership and the individuals within it.