The opinions expressed in entries in the LC Blog are those of the author, not of Lawyers Club of San Diego.
We recognize Equal Pay Day, the date that women must work after the end of the previous year to achieve the same pay as men, on March 31. In other words, women must work an additional 90 days before they achieve the same pay for the same work as men. While the U.S. women’s soccer team has recently brought equal pay to the forefront of public discourse, disparate compensation affects all women, including women in the legal profession.
The gender pay gap is persistent and harmful to women’s economic security. The pay gap translates into women receiving only $0.82 for every $1.00 received in compensation by men. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, that pay gap between women and men is projected to last until 2059 at the current rate of reduction. As a further illustration of the current trend, when my daughter turns 65 (she is six months old), it is projected that 11 states will still have a pay gap. The wage gap is even greater for most women of color: Black women receive 62% less than men; and Latinas receive 54% less than men.
While studies have shown that the pay gap is partly caused by structural differences in careers for men and women (i.e. 40% of women work in “pink collar” jobs), much of the pay gap is attributable to unconscious and explicit discrimination in pay, hiring, or promotions. For example, while women have made significant strides in careers once dominated by men over the last twenty years, there has been no material change in the wage gap. Not only does lower pay mean that women are less able to support their families than men, but studies have shown that equal pay would cut poverty among working women by more than 50% and add about $513 billion to the economy.
Similar pay gaps exist in the legal profession. Studies have shown that female attorneys are paid less no matter how many hours they work. Men and women with children are also treated differently. Men with children are more likely than women to receive raises and promotions. Studies also show that women with children face a “motherhood penalty” and are seen as unreliable, while men with children are perceived as reliable and stable.
How do we eliminate the pay gap and avoid waiting another sixty years? Women need to attain the positions within their own firms or organizations to make decisions regarding pay and advocate for women friendly policies. Now is the time to take action and eliminate the pay gap.
-Article first published in LC News, March 2020
Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.