Nine years ago, when women constituted barely 15 percent of equity partners across the country, the National Association of Women Lawyers issued a challenge to the nation's largest law firms: Double the number of female equity partners by 2015. The goal seemed within reach. After all, since at least 1991 women have made up just under half of law school graduates and new associates, and partnership promotions would be expected to occur between eight and 10 years later, driving up the numbers. Across the country, firms responded; as of 2012, according to NAWL, 97 percent had rolled out women's initiatives to better retain and train women for advancement.
According to demographic data from Am Law 200 firms, women accounted for just 16.8 percent of equity partners last year. At this rate, women equity partners will reach 30 percent—by 2081. Without extraordinary new efforts, parity remains a distant possibility, in 2181. (Facing a double bind of gender and minority status, women of color continue to occupy just 2 percent of equity partnership ranks, according to data from NAWL and The American Lawyer.)
Law firm leaders and experts attribute the stalled progress to several interconnected trends. Firms continue to see relatively more women than men leaving the firm at all rungs of the ladder. Flextime and part-time tracks generally haven't succeeded in retaining women with children. Sharper competition for business and flat profit margins have made law firms less attractive places for everyone, but seem to have led more women and minorities out the door.
Read more in: http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202726917646/A-Few-Good-Women?slreturn=20150916152822