Monday, October 26, 2009

New Female Majority

"Now for the first time in our nation's history, women are half of all U.S. workers . . . ." - The Shriver Report
That's huge news... right? According to the Shriver Report, published by the Center for American Progress and Maria Shriver, "women as half of all workers changes everything."

Not everyone is that impressed, however. In an NYT op-ed, The Mismeasure of Woman, Joanne Lipman cites the fact that "women make up half the workforce" (and other supposed breakthroughs) only to announce it's "not exactly" great news but rather "spectacularly misleading."

The whole piece is an interesting, albeit somewhat meandering, read. She jumps around from good stats to bad stats; personal anecdotes to observed media screeds; and even works in some personal advice for young girls and adult women.

One stat that grabbed my attention:
"According to the American Bar Association, women in 2008 made up almost half of all associates, but only 18.3 percent of partners."
I suspect that's a stat that builds upon itself... in other words, more women partners will:
  • Result in more women voting on partnership decisions;
  • Change the culture/perceptions at "men's clubs" firms that partner=man;
  • Provide role models for young women entering the profession (trickling down to small children considering career options); and
  • Change client perceptions
There's also some lag because it takes time to become a partner. All that said, it's clear that there's still progress to be made in the legal profession and the workforce generally. Whether the 50% mark is truly a tipping point to a new female majority that "changes everything" or "not exactly" great news remains to be seen.

UPDATE (10/27/2009) - I have two updates today: First, the link to the op-ed, Mismeasure of Woman, was not working. It has been updated and should work now. Second, I originally stated that Lipman cites the "new majority" when in fact it is merely that "women make up half the workforce" (and if you read the report it is actually 49.9% which is not a majority).