Gender disparity at large firms is not unique to the US; our colleagues down under in New Zealand share these problems also, as reported in Flexible work practices avoid gender disparity (April 21, 2006); NZ Lawyer Issue 38. According to the article, women comprise over a third of all law practitioners, but less than 20 per cent of partners are female. (which may be a better record, proportinally, than the US).
The same problems plague New Zealand’s women attorneys; long hours make it difficult to balance work and family. But at least, the New Zealanders recognize a practical alternative (as opposed to many in the US who overlook the most obvious solution of starting a firm):
Practical alternatives to the burden of meeting chargeable time expectations include starting up a law firm with like-minded partners or becoming a sole practitioner or barrister. North Shore law firm Lewis Callanan is managed exclusively by female partners. Partner Rowena Lewis stated that managing a small law firm provided greater flexibility and the ability to opt out of overtime. She succinctly summed up the firm’s view on working hours: “I don’t do weekends”. If she works less, she earns less.
Maybe it’s time we look to see what other countries are doing to address gender disparity here.