Times they are a changin’. According to new national data, women account for a third of the nation’s lawyers and doctors, a major shift from a generation ago when those professions were occupied almost exclusively by men.
“That’s very significant progress,” Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a nonprofit group in Washington told The Wall Street Journal. “In the midst of a lot of evidence that women’s progress has plateaued, nevertheless we can see that women are still making progress in some very professional, high-wage fields.” From The WSJ:
Women held 33.4% of legal jobs—including lawyers, judges, magistrates and other judicial workers—in 2010, up from 29.2% in 2000. The share of female physicians and surgeons increased to 32.4% from 26.8% during that time.
In 1970, women were 9.7% of the nation’s doctors and just 4.9% of its lawyers.
This is great news, but we still see a major gap when it comes to compensation. In 2007, the median income—the point at which half earn more and half earn less—of female lawyers was $90,000, compared with $122,000 for male lawyers, according to research by Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz. The median income of female physicians was $112,128, compared with $186,916 for male physicians.
The pay gap can be attributed to the usual reasons of more women take time off to raise their children than men. But basic, good old-fashioned discrimination could also be a factor. More women are going to college and grad school at the best institutions in the world but this is still happening. According to Annie-Rose Strasser of ThinkProgress, in law, women are earning about 74 cents for every dollar a man earns. For physicians, that drops down to 60 cents on the dollar. It’s estimated that over their careers, female doctors lose an average of $350,000 to this wage gap.
We are still seeing less women in law management positions because of the extensive time requirement. At large law firms, women make up just 15% of equity partners, according to a survey released in October by the National Association of Women Lawyers. Of the 200 firms surveyed, just 4% had a woman at the helm in the role of firm-wide managing partner. Another survey found that twice as many female doctors as male doctors work less than full-time: 44% of women, compared to 22% of men.