The National Association of Women Lawyers ("NAWL") is "a national voluntary legal professional organization devoted to promoting the interests and progress of women lawyers and women's legal rights."
To address the disparity of women leadership in law firms and legal departments, in 2006 the organization started The NAWL Challenge, a ten-year deadline to the legal industry to change.
From a NAWL press release on The Challenge "Research indicates that women comprise nearly 50% of incoming law school students but only 15% of equity partners at law firms and 15% of chief legal officers. Thus, NAWL challenges both law firms and corporations with in-house legal departments to cure this inequity so that, by the year 2015, 30% of all equity partners, 30% of all chief legal officers and 30% of all tenured law faculties are women."
Each year NAWL issues a survey to measure the results of their efforts. Progress has been made, albeit we still have a long way to go. At present, female equity partnership still stays at about 15%, but the number of female chief legal officers has climbed to 17% since the start of the challenge.
What will be needed to see greater gains?
One area that will help improve the situation is a better knowledge of the issues facing women lawyers and a commitment to change. In areas such as unconscious bias, women face an uphill battle that men do not have to fight just to overcome stereotypes about how they work and lead.
We caught up with both the current (2010 to 2011) and incoming (2011 to 2012) presidents of NAWL and recorded podcasts with each of them. The discussions focused on unconscious bias, the NAWL Challenge, and how women lawyers are going to change the game.
Dorian Denburg, General Attorney for AT&T and the current (2010 to 2011) NAWL President
The NAWL Challenge was first issued in 2006 with the goal of having women account for 30% equity partnership (currently still at 15%), chief legal officers (currently at 17%), and tenured law professors by the year 2015. With four years to go there is still lots to be done.
Here's a look at the annual surveys and reports since 2006: