A new progress report from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCAA) reveals a significant increase in the number women general counsel among Fortune 500 companies. Women now hold the top legal position at 21% of Fortune 500 companies, reaching an unprecedented high of 108 women in 2011, up from 44 women in 1999 when MCCA began tracking this information. Six states account for half the list: California, New York, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey and Virginia. Women general counsel also are increasingly diverse; 16% of the group identified themselves as minorities.
This study confirms a positive trend at large corporations in America. What’s driving it? MCCA President, Joseph K. West, told Law360 that growing transparency and greater focus on diversity in corporate legal departments are contributing factors. In addition, West pointed to corporations appreciating the value of retention, development and growth of talent.
At law firms, the gap in the number of women equity partners is not diminishing as quickly. In 2011, approximately 15% of equity partners were women, according to The National Law Journal. As the number of women general counsel increases and more corporations demand diversity and visibility from the firms they engage, we hope to see more law firms embracing a culture of equality and diversity in which women are promoted to positions of leadership and governance.
I am fortunate to be a member of Epstein Becker Green, a law firm committed to, and recognized for, advancing the careers of women and maintaining a significant percentage of women partners in leadership and management positions. Among the accolades our firm has received for its integration and promotion of women, are the following:
- Received a 2012 Gold Standard Certification from the Women in Law Empowerment Forum
- Ranked fifth on the MultiCultural Law magazine's 2012 "Top Law Firms for Women" list
- Ranked as one of the top 10 law firms for female partners, in a 2012 survey conducted by Law360
- Placed in the top 20 in The National Law Journal's most recent ranking of the 250 largest U.S. law firms by number of women partners
- Ranked eighth in the nation among the 200 largest firms for its percentage of women attorneys by The American Lawyer's most recent "Women in Law Firms" study
It is a privilege for me to practice law in an environment in which the contributions of women are vital to the firm’s success. We invite you to learn more about Epstein Becker Green’s Women’s Initiative and share your thoughts and comments.