Gender Diversity: It’s Harsh in the Spotlight

It’s a mixed bag when it comes to women entering the partnership ranks this year, according to the Project for Attorney Retention, an initiative of the Center for WorkLife Law at Hastings College of the Law. While more and more firms have partner classes that are 25 to 33 percent female, that’s still less than the percentage of women entering firms, according to the project’s report.

Among the firms getting kudos for their proportions were three based in
California: Four of the six members of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s newest partnership class were women; five of the nine new partners at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe were women; and half of Thelen, Reid & Priest’s eight new partners were female.

The report also cites firms with the lowest partner proportions. These include Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice; White & Case; Holland & Hart; Shearman & Sterling; and Dewey Ballantine — all of which have no women in their recent partner promotions.

Gibson, Dunn partner Karen Bertero, a member of the firm’s diversity and hiring committees, said that the firm’s strides in creating a viable part-time policy, as well as mentoring and retention efforts, have boosted the percentage of women entering the partnership.

“We always try to focus on retaining people we think are successful,” Bertero said. “Often, it’s more of a struggle to keep women because a lot of people make choices based on lifestyle.”

This year’s numbers are part of an increasing pattern of more women entering the firm’s partnership ranks, all of whom will be equity partners, she said.

“I think this is going to be a regular event here,” Bertero said.

— Kellie Schmitt

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