The Generation Gap

Two Views of Being an Attorney Hurts the Old and the Young

As a millennial, I often hear the same complaint from my fellow young female lawyers: “Why is it so hard to find a female mentor?” Digging deeper, there are often two complaints.  The first: There aren’t any female partners at my firm. The second: OK, yes, there are some female partners at my firm, but they often made career and family choices that I don’t want to make.

Let’s look at both of these. Last year, consulting group Bain & Co. released the results of a five-year study on men and women in corporate America.  The study asked about both genders’ interest in pursuing a top management position in a large company.

The results may surprise you.  In the first two years of their career, 43 percent of women aspired to be in top management. Conversely, only 34 percent of men aspired to do the same. Equally important, both genders were equally confident about their abilities to reach those top positions.

Two years later, the numbers changed, fairly dramatically.  Thirty-four percent of men with two or more years of experience still wanted to be in top-level management. The percentage of women, however, plummeted.  Only 16 percent of women with two or more years of experience still aspire to be in top-level management. Moreover, women’s confidence about reaching those management positions fell by 50 percent. Men’s confidence levels stayed the same.

Bain found that the declines in aspiration and confidence were independent of marriage and becoming a mother.

READ MORE  Published in Chicago Lawyer Volume 39 Number 1  January 2016 Professionalism on Point

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