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Attorneys move to close pay gap for women in law

The Allegheny County Bar Association is moving to close the pay gap for women in the local law profession, a gap that it's officials say hasn't gotten much better since the organization first reported on the issue 18 years ago.

The association today announced the founding of an Institute for Gender Equality as well as a list of recommendations developed in the wake of a 2005 membership survey that showed little or no improvement in pay and other gender equality issues in the local legal community compared to a similar survey in 1990.

"The time for just talking about gender equality is past and the emphasis going forward must be on a collaborative effort to secure real change for all stakeholders," said Linda Hernandez, the association's gender equality coordinator.

Last year Hernandez was named to her current post -- a position believed to be the first of its kind for a bar association in the U.S. Now she will add the title of director of the new institute. It is expected to begin classes in the first quarter of 2009 and will be open to all members of the bar association.

"It is our belief that the graduates of the institute will be equipped with additional leadership, management, and negotiation skills to effect change in their organizations and to help us mentor future participants," she said.

According to the 2005 membership survey, male lawyers made significantly more than female lawyers locally, with only about 5 percent of the female lawyers making more than $250,000 a year.

About 20 percent of the men were at that level.

Also, no woman who graduated from law school in the 1990s was paid more than $200,000 to $249,999 level, while almost 10 percent of the male graduates of the 1990s were, the survey found.

"We were disappointed in the 2005 Membership Survey results, but over the past 18 months our Gender Equality Task Force members have been researching law firms and bar associations, conducting focus groups and interviews, and drilling down into those survey results to determine where change is needed," said Ken Gormley, a Duquesne University law professor and current president of the bar association.

"We are proud to announce the founding of the Allegheny County Bar Association's Institute for Gender Equality, and we believe strongly that this is a positive step forward in addressing the issue of gender equality in the Allegheny County legal community."

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