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New numbers paint a bleak picture of life at the bar for female attorneys in Utah. If there is one thing attorneys of any gender listen to, it is evidence, and the statistics from a survey by the Women Lawyers of Utah say the evidence points to a "startling amount" of sexual harassment and sex discrimination in Utah law firms.
The ABA Journal breaks down the executive summary from The Utah Report: The Initiative on the Advancement and Retention of Women in Law Firms. Some of the numbers are indeed startling. According to the Report, approximately 10% of women lawyers surveyed said they had been sexually harassed at work. The gender representations of men to women are very uneven in Utah, which may have some bearing on the harassment stats. Nationally, the Report states, the number of male to female attorneys is 69% to 31%. In Utah, however, the rates are 77% to 23%, male to female.
When looking at outright discrimination, the numbers were even less attractive. According to the Report, 10% of women in law firms reported unfair treatment that rose to the level of discrimination. In general, 23% of women surveyed said they had been treated unfairly. When asked about specifics, 44% cited compensation, 13% lack of respect or credit, 13% were given lesser tasks or assignments, 7% were passed over for promotion. Finally, 7% said they were criticized or yelled at. A comparison of national stats on these last few indicators would no doubt paint a fuller picture of life at law firms, for both men and women.
The responses become less statistical but no less telling when addressing how women lawyers felt about unfair treatment and how they fit in to the culture at their firms. One particularly sad example reported by the Journal, was one respondent who stated that she wasn't allowed to go to lunch with "the boys" because she had to stay behind to answer phones. Shades of Mad Men.
The Report includes some concrete suggestions for ways Utah firms can address the discrepancies in treatment, pay and culture. There is one other strong motivator at play here: money. Employees who are unhappy leave and attrition hurts a firm's bottom line. According to the Report, loss of a single associate can cost a law firm between $200,000 and $500,000. Those are numbers nobody, male or female, wants to see.
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