The interview below is about the technology industry, but I do believe it applies to a wide range of industries, especially the legal profession.
With the women you do have, are you investing in them, not only to stay, but get promoted in your company? There are many jobs available in the technology market right now. Are you a culture and place to work that’s attractive enough that women want to stay?
I’ve worked in law firms, and I’ve worked with law firms in other jobs I’ve had, and still have. There is definitely a pattern that I’ve seen over the years. The incoming associate classes are full of female lawyers.Every year it becomes clear that firms have spent a lot of time and energy attracting a diverse group of associates. And then, as time goes on, there is is attrition. The mid-size or larger law firm doesn’t turn out to be a good fit for all of them, things don’t work out for any number of reasons, etc.
Before you know it, you’re a few years down the road, and that diverse associate class, looks an awful lot like every other group of attorneys up for partner. Not so diverse.
What happens? Well, again, I don’t think most firms are actively pushing women and minorities away. Rather, there’s an assumption that simply having more diverse lawyers will just make the values of the firm change, but there’s no really effort to make them change.
For example, those first few years out of law school is when a lot of women are also starting a family. Maternity leave will leave them slightly behind the other associates in their class who didn’t take maternity leave. Raising little ones ends up not being exactly compatible with billing 2,400-2,500 hours and also attracting your own clients, etc.
In short, by hiring more women, but leaving metrics in place, the firm winds up being very unfriendly to women who want to start a family, among many other groups.
You can talk all you want about diversity, but if the measurements you use to evaluate employees and associate are entirely inflexible, you’ll get a bunch of people who fit that, and that’s not going to be diverse at all.