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.
Back to Top

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.
Back to Top

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:

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:

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.
Back to Top

IV. Facts and Statistics



Prepared by the Public Information & Bar Services Department.
Back to Top


[Revised: March 20, 2007]