Knowledge Center

Women of Color in U.S. Law Firms—Women of Color in Professional Services Series

The retention, development, and advancement of women and minorities is a pressing issue for law firms. Although women of color represented nearly one-quarter of all women associates in 2008, only 1.84 percent were partners. Women of color continue to leave law firms at an alarming rate—75 percent leave their firms by the fifth year of practice, and nearly 86 percent leave before their seventh years. For the first time, Catalyst is able to benchmark the experiences of women of color against other demographic groups in the workforce. The study found that:

  • Women of color felt marginalized in some top U.S. law firms.
  • Compared to white women, men of color, and white men working in law firms, women of color were most likely to perceive negative stereotyping; they were also most likely to feel that fitting into their firms’ environment was a challenge.
  • The development and advancement of women of color was compromised by lack of access to business development opportunities and important client engagements.
  • Women of color also felt that their supervising attorneys had low expectations of their performance.

Lead Sponsor: Sidley Austin LLP
Contributing Sponsors: Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP