County bar urges less talk, more action on gender gap
The Allegheny County Bar Association is trying to close the pay gap between male and female attorneys, which its officials say hasn't gotten much better since the organization first reported on the issue 18 years ago.
The association on Tuesday announced the founding of an Institute for Gender Equality and released a list of recommendations developed in the wake of a 2005 membership survey that found little or no improvement in pay and other gender equality issues in the region's legal community since 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.
Hernandez was named last year to her post -- believed to be the first of its kind for a bar association in the United States. Now she will add the title of director of the new institute, which is expected to begin classes in the first quarter of 2009.
"It is our belief that 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.
The institute will be open to all members of the bar association, as well as law students at the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University.
According to the bar's 2005 membership survey of 1,250 area attorneys, the average salary for men was between $100,000 and $149,999. The average paycheck for women was between $50,000 and $99,000.
In 1990, male attorneys' average pay was between $60,000 and $79,999. The average for female lawyers was between $35,000 and $45,999.
Then, only about 5 percent of the female lawyers were making more than $250,000 a year compared to 20 percent of the men. No woman who graduated from law school in the 1990s was paid more than $200,000 to $249,999, while almost 10 percent of the male graduates of the 1990s were, the survey found.
Not much has changed, even since the bar's task force was formed, said Pittsburgh attorney Jonnie Joseph, a former chairwoman of the bar's Women in the Law Division Council.
"I think the association has done a magnificent job in trying to bring this issue to the forefront, but I don't think things will really change until we can put some heat on the top management of law firms," she said.
Joseph said she still sees women "pouring out" of the law profession into other areas and a persistent gap in pay between male and female attorneys.
"People are still not making the changes that need to be made," she said.
A special task force of the Allegheny County Bar Association aimed at gaining gender equality for women recommends:
• Development of mentoring systems
• Creation of an unbiased compensation system
• Increased business development training
• Development of programs to address negotiation skills
• Focus on decreasing the number of female attorneys leaving the profession