It’s A Problem Our Lawyers Lack Diversity
The world is full of inequality and lacks true representation of such diverse populations. However, it is still surprising that a profession dedicated to ensuring equality in other people’s lives lacks diversity themselves. The legal profession is one of the top least diversified fields in the nation. Eighty-eight percent of lawyers are white. Women who make up over 50 percent of law school graduates only account for 17 percent of equity partners.
Why is more not being done to increase diversity?
Well, the main issue is not too many people are aware there is an issue. It seems as though barriers have been broken with the three women in the Supreme Court and Loretta Lynch as the second African-American attorney general. Not to mention, our former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama were both in the law profession. Unfortunately, what people don’t realize is women and minorities are still massively underrepresented in the law profession, and this can have an impact on their lives.
The lack of women holding top positions in law firms is often explained by their lack of commitment to the job. It’s understandable that law is a very demanding job, but women should not be held back based off old gender role stereotypes and structural gender inequality. Men have always held power in our society. Institutions and the government direct policies and rules to benefit them. Even if men today do not realize it, they are benefiting from male privilege. The privilege of just being a male and not having to worry about being devalued because you have children and may not be as dependable as someone of the other sex; or the privilege of not having to worry about being too soft or too bitchy.
Minorities experience a lot of the discrimination that women do but from a different perspective. There are unconscious biases that rate minorities as less qualified than white people. Systemic racism and white privilege play huge roles in the lack of minorities in top positions at law firms. Systemic racism is the antiblack practices that are built into society over many years. It puts minorities at an automatic disadvantage, which explains white privilege. White people have simple everyday occurrences that are unknown to people of color.
Both women and minorities struggle with formal and informal networking. Sixty-two percent of minority women and 60 percent of white women expressed concern about being excluded from formal and informal networking opportunities. Only 4 percent of white men said this was a concern. White males have a huge leverage in the law profession because these networking connections ultimately can make or break you in advancing to higher levels.
It’s important for law firms to not just preach diversity but to practice it. Leaders in the field need to be held more accountable and step up to make changes in the structural practices of law firms. More should be done to eliminate unconscious bias such as workshops and blind resume policy. Lawyers often become our lawmakers, presidents, governs and prosecutors. It is vital that the lawyers in all levels of the profession represent the population. If lawyers are the ones making important decisions affecting all different kinds of people, they should not only be coming from a majority white men’s perspective. By obtaining more diversity, everyone will overall benefit. New perspectives will ultimately lead to new possibilities never thought of before.