Lawyers need to be honest about why women leave

I feel sorry for reporters who have to research the “problem” regarding women lawyers. A recent article in the Globe& Mail is a case in point.

Poor Jeff Gray writes well about several women who have left, each of them telling pretty much the same old story (yawn). This story is mine as well, although mine is collecting dust. Women lawyers are still not moving up the corporate ladder in law firms in Toronto. Keen women lawyers tend to work at law firms for about 3-5 years and then leave – just before getting into real positions of power, money and status. Most people think that these women are simply choosing a better life balance, but the undeniable truth is that they do not really have a choice at all. If they want to contribute as brilliant lawyers, they must act like single men – with no life but the law. The current model of most law firms is to work 24/7. It was designed by men and the power structures within are still dominated by men. And within this system lurks many unconscious beliefs about women being partners.  One core belief is that it is impossible to raise a family at the same time as seeking partnership. Even though men do it all the time, women are repeatedly told: “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Which translates into this: We men have created a workplace that is so harsh that you will not be able to succeed unless you have a full time worker at home raising your children and managing your “other” life.” So Jeff, no sense asking women lawyers any more. It’s not so complicated. To me leaving the current version of the practice of law is a “no-brainer” for way too many women and way too many good men too. Sadly. (Original article Globe & Mail 9 November 2011)

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