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The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org

Women in the Law/Gender Bias

On This Page
I. Issue
II. The Florida Bar Position
III. Background
IV. Facts and Statistics


I. Issue

Although women account for over 32 percent of The Florida Bar membership, they are not proportionately represented in law firm partnerships, judgeships or tenured law school faculty positions. A disproportionately higher number of women attorneys work in government and legal services. It is not uncommon for witnesses and litigants to experience gender bias in the legal system, which affects the outcome of cases. Gender bias pervades the legal system, beginning with legal education and running through to the judicial system.
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II. The Florida Bar Position

The Board of Governors approved the following Rule amendment to 4­8.4(d), which was approved by the Supreme Court on July 1, 1993:

A lawyer shall not:
(d) engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, including to knowingly, or through callous indifference, disparage, humiliate or discriminate against litigants, jurors, witnesses, court personnel or other lawyers on any basis, including, but not limited to, on account of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, employment or physical characteristics.

The Board of Governors also approved an appointments policy: "It is the policy of The Florida Bar to ensure that all members, including women and minorities, have equal opportunities to be appointed to committee membership, committee leadership and other positions.
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III. Background

In 1970, women nationally comprised only 3 percent of the legal profession, and gender bias as a recognized legal concept was unknown. Recent figures show women now comprise 30.2 percent of the legal population, and the current percentage of women law students has surpassed 48.8 percent. Women are now a sizable percentage of the profession as a whole, but they are underrepresented in policy making and administrative positions.

The American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession was created in 1987 with four primary objectives:
  • Assess the status of women in the legal profession;
  • Identify barriers that prevent women lawyers from full participation in the work, responsibilities and rewards of the profession;
  • Develop educational programs and materials to address discrimination against women lawyers; and
  • Make recommendations to the ABA for action to address problems identified by the Commission

The Commission develops programs, policies and publications to advance and assist women lawyers. In addition, the Commission educates the profession about work/family issues that affect all lawyers and, acts as a clearinghouse for information on the subject of "women in the law."

In May 1991, at the Florida Supreme Court's request, the Special Committee for Gender Equality in the Profession was formed. The committee was given a four­year time period through June 1995, to implement recommendations. Twenty­nine of the 33 recommendations contained in the July 1992 interim report have been accomplished, including the following Rule changes:

The Florida Supreme Court Gender Bias Study Commission completed a two­year investigation of gender bias within the legal system in March 1990. The Commission's findings concluded the discrimination based solely on one's gender was a reality that permeates Florida's legal system.

While the Supreme Court appointed its own Implementation Commission to find solutions for gender problems outside the legal profession, the court requested The Florida Bar to form a committee to find solutions for eradicating gender bias from the practice of law. In May 1991, The Florida Bar Special Committee for Gender Equality in the Profession was formed.

In an effort to avoid duplication of efforts, the Implementation Commission would concentrate on reform that could be achieved through the Supreme Court, and the Special Committee would focus on changes that could be made by The Florida Bar, voluntary bar associations and/or individual attorneys. Subcommittees formed to study gender bias in the following contexts: Disparity in Pay and Opportunities; Credibility Afforded to Women; Judicial Appointments; Lawyers and Their Families; Bar Association Opportunities; and Law Schools.

The July 1992 Interim Report and Recommendations of the Special Committee for Gender Equality in the Profession presented recommendations to the Board of Governors in regard to Bar leadership goals, educating the membership and law students on gender fairness, sexual harassment and how to avoid biased behavior, how to increase participation of women in Florida Bar organizational activities, how to increase numbers of women speakers on Florida Bar CLE programs, promoting Florida Bar written sexual harassment policies, family leave and alternative work schedule policies, encouraging the creation of a judicial screening panel to determine if judicial nominees and/or candidates for judicial election are committed to equal justice for men and women.

By September 1996, the Special Committee had accomplished the following goals:
  • Approval of ethics credit for CLE programs that include discussion or instruction on avoiding biased behavior;
  • Gender amendments to CLE manual;
  • Inclusion of gender fairness and sexual harassment segments in Bridge­the­Gap seminars;
  • Approval and distribution of a sexual harassment consumer pamphlet to each Florida Bar member, all court personnel and to support staff in the office of state attorneys, public defenders, city and county attorneys and the Attorney General;
  • Obtained funding, produced and distributed the "Court Conduct Handbook" to promote gender equality in Florida's courts;
  • Promoted educational courses geared specifically to women lawyers on rain­making, trial and negotiation skills, income disparity and other gender-related issues;
  • Obtained sponsorship and produced a one­day Law Firm Management Conference in seven locations across the state for senior opinion leaders; and
  • Conducted a 1993 Gender Equality in the Profession random sample survey of 4,805 in­state Bar members.

In 1999-2000, the Special Committee for Gender Equality merged with Equal Opportunities in the Profession committee, and was called the Equal Opportunity Law Section. This section was active in sponsoring seminars and educating attorneys and the public on diversity, civil rights, discrimination law, women's issues, and disabilities issues.
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IV. Facts and Statistics

  • Nineteen percent of Florida's women attorneys are managing partners or partners/ shareholders (2006 Florida Bar Economics and Law Office Management Survey).
  • According to the 2006 Florida Bar survey, 68 percent of Florida's attorneys are male and 32 percent are female (2006 Economics and Law Office Management Survey).
  • Thirty-three percent of The Florida Bar Standing Committee members are women (The Florida Bar, September 2006).
  • Almost one-third, 31 percent, of all male attorneys are either managing partners or partner-shareholders. Comparatively, 14 percent of women attorneys are the same. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of all women respondents are employed as government attorneys, compared to 12 percent of all male respondents (From the 2005 Membership Opinion Survey).
  • Women represent 28.8 percent of Florida judges (Office of the State Court Administrator, February 2007).
  • More than one-quarter (26 percent) of all women respondents are employed in government practice positions. Comparatively, 10 percent of all men respondents are employed in government practice positions (2006 Economics and Law Office Management Survey).
  • The median salary for men attorneys is $110,000. The median salary for women attorneys is $75,000 (2005 Membership Opinion Survey).
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, as of 2003, women comprise about 30.2 percent of all U.S. lawyers, a significant increase over 1970 when women made up only 3 percent of the profession.
  • The ABA reported that in 2006, approximately 47 percent of all U.S. law students were women, compared to 3 percent in 1947. (Legal Education Statistics Enrollment 2005-2006. ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.)


Prepared by the Public Information & Bar Services Department.
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[Revised: March 20, 2007]