Navigating the Gap: Reflections on 20 Years Researching Gender Disparities in the Legal Profession

8(2) Florida International Law Review (2013), Forthcoming

U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-32

26 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2013 Last revised: 5 Aug 2013

Joyce S. Sterling

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Nancy Reichman

University of Denver - Department of Sociology; University of Denver

Date Written: July 22, 2013

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Sterling, Joyce S. and Reichman, Nancy, Navigating the Gap: Reflections on 20 Years Researching Gender Disparities in the Legal Profession (July 22, 2013). 8(2) Florida International Law Review (2013), Forthcoming; U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-32. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2297086

Joyce S. Sterling (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States
303-871-6309 (Phone)
303-871-6378 (Fax)

Nancy Reichman

University of Denver - Department of Sociology ( email )

2201 S. Gaylord St
Denver, CO 80208-2685
United States

University of Denver ( email )

Sturm Hall, Room 446
2000 E Asbury Ave, MSC 0942
Denver, CO 80208-0942
United States

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