Navigating the Gap: Reflections on 20 Years Researching Gender Disparities in the Legal Profession
Joyce S. Sterling
University of Denver Sturm College of Law
University of Denver - Department of Sociology; University of Denver
July 22, 2013
8(2) Florida International Law Review (2013), Forthcoming
U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-32
This paper reflects on our work and findings about gender disparities in earnings, as well as the substantial literature created by other scholars in the field, to assess where we are and where we need to go to navigate the gap. Over the last two decades, we have conducted in-depth studies of Colorado lawyers and analyzed data from the AJD national survey. In each study, we identified a bit of new information about earnings, unavailable to us during the data gathering phase of the previous projects, to help explain the persistence of earning disparities. We assumed that if only we could identify and collect the right piece of information, we would be able to unlock the persistent problems of gender disparity in law. Now, almost 20 years later, we are still discussing gender disparities, hidden biases, the challenges of work-family integration and, most importantly, still thinking of our journey as just one step away from meaningfully eliminating the gap. We have been able to document that women lawyers are valued less than men. However, we have been less successful in exposing the black box of compensation and promotion to empirically demonstrate the more invisible and subtle sources of bias that we first identified decades ago. We continue to be hopeful. Field research that allows us to continue our search for the elusive clues would be helpful. Even more so would be women lawyers’ collective insistence for transparency in decision-making that will be necessary to affect change.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 23, 2013 ; Last revised: August 5, 2013
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