Stats, Stats and More Stats: the Truth in Numbers.
I am pleased to share a recent survey on compensation. Before we dig into the stats, we’d like to thank the CBA-WLF for commissioning a survey to consider partner compensation; a laudable project aimed at considering whether there is disparity between partner compensation by gender. At the time the survey was commissioned, no other survey existed in Canada directed at law firm compensation. The CBA-WLF Compensation Survey Report can be found here.
Due to sensitivities related to disclosing individual wages, even if expressed as a percentage of total income, the study focused on the factors considered in determining compensation.
The survey had a 42% response rate of 27 firms. On average, the firms that responded had 49 partners of which 30% were women. Female lawyers made up about 38% of participating firms so the partnership ratio is slightly lower but the factors for this were not clearly identified in the report. In keeping with these statistics, the survey showed (on average) female partners make up 25% of management committees, which on average had four members. The compensation committees (on average) were comprised of six partners of which 26% were women. These statistics are slightly lower than the average number of female partners in the firms surveyed, again about 30%.
The survey was able to collect data relevant to the factors considered for compensation. Production of work, not surprisingly, is weighted highest at 50%. Other “financial” factors included originated lawyer credits, client management, and appropriate delegation of work. In terms of the non-financial factors the participating firms did not prescribe a value to them but they include participation on firm committees and mentoring. The non-financial factors are interesting given that the survey also found that less than 50% of the significant firm committees are comprised of women.
Despite not being able to collect the data in Canada, CBA found these statistics available in the UK. In 2019 a number of UK firms released their partner compensation for 2018. In general, equity partners earned between 24.5 to 35% more than female equity partners and were more often awarded bonuses than their counterparts. Clearly, on the face of the statistic, a significant and concerning disparity.
Although the initial project did not go as planned, the data obtained is still very useful in demonstrating what remains to be a disparity between men and women as members of firms and on management and compensation committees. We know that approximately 50% of law school graduates are women and so we can conclude that attrition still occurs. Perhaps as women move toward and through partnership, they are not considered to be equal value to that partnership.
As female leaders in the practice of law we need to continue to support women, formally and informally. We need to champion and advocate for women to sit on, and lead, significant firm committees in an effort to ensure there is a balance in representation on important firm decisions. We will be better for it and we’re ready for change.