Wednesday, July 22, 2009
6953: The Case For Female Minority Lawyers.
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Female minority lawyers don’t stay at U.S. firms
Report | 75% bail within 5 years due to barriers
By Francine Knowles
A study has found that more than 75 percent of female minority attorneys at U.S. law firms will leave their jobs within five years due to continuing barriers to advancement. The finding is by the women’s research group Catalyst, which notes the barriers bring with them big costs.
“Those who leave often report experiencing institutional discrimination and unwanted and or unfair critical attention, which combine to create an exclusionary and challenging workplace,” the report said.
When a lawyer leaves a firm, the cost to the employer is equal to or greater than that person’s annual salary and benefits, Catalyst said, citing a previous study it did.
The report looked at the workplace experiences of minority women, compared with those of men of color and white women and men. Challenges unique to women of color include limited growth opportunities and a greater sense of “outsider status,” racial and gender stereotyping and more feelings of sexism in the workplace compared with white women; lack of access to high-profile client assignments and important client engagements, and missed opportunities for candid feedback, the report said.
The findings come as firms focus on associate satisfaction and retention and address diversity issues while facing a client base and talent pool composed of more women and minorities, Catalyst said.
The report found stark differences between groups of minority women in their perceptions of workplace culture and diversity.
Black women were more likely to believe diversity programs don’t address workplace biases and feel that partners and other supervising attorneys get insufficient training on how to work effectively with diverse cultures. They also cited a lack of access to challenging work assignments.
The report, whose sponsors included Sidley & Austin, said that to attract and retain women of color firms need to:
• Include senior leaders as active players in building and establishing inclusive workplaces.
• Raise awareness on the varying needs of different minority groups.
• Create opportunities for dialogue between firm leadership and female minority attorneys.
• Educate all attorneys, especially partners and other supervising attorneys on how to recognize bias and stereotyping of women of color.
• Monitor and track the career development of minority women and hold leaders accountable for their advancement.