Women fill less than 10 percent of top-earning positions in survey of Milwaukee law firms, finds Institute for Women’s Leadership

March 8, 2021

Andrea Kupfer SchneiderMILWAUKEE — Just 7.1% of the top-fifth of earners in Milwaukee law firms are women, while 68.9 percent of the participating law firms do not have any women among their top-fifth earners, according to a white paper published on law firm pay equity by the Institute for Women’s Leadership at Marquette University on International Women’s Day. 

Andrea Kupfer Schneider, director of the IWL, published the paper, “Law Firm Equity Initiative – 2021 Report,” based on a survey of Milwaukee-area law firms, including 75% of the 30 largest law firms in Milwaukee.

“With this study, we are trying to make transparent the number of women in leadership in the Milwaukee legal community,” said Schneider, who is a professor of law at Marquette University Law School. “We hope to demonstrate that transparency, candid conversations and innovative reform can make Milwaukee a leading city for female attorneys as well as push this initiative nationwide.”

The study was conducted among firms that employ 10 or more attorneys, including at least one female attorney. Data includes Milwaukee locations of firms that operate both in and outside of the city. Of 49 firms contacted, 29 responded and provided data for 1,108 attorneys.

The survey also found:

  • Milwaukee mirrors the national average of female equity partners at approximately 21%, although the range is quite large with seven of the firms having more than 25% female equity partners.
  • Milwaukee is marginally below the national average of total number of women in law firms. Just over 30% of all lawyers at participating firms are women, compared to the national average of 36.3%.
  • For women in leadership roles, Milwaukee lags behind already low numbers nationally. Just 10% of Milwaukee practice group leaders are women, compared to the 25% national average.
  • In tracking the progression of women at Milwaukee law firms, women start off at 44.1% of junior associates. This steadily drops over time to 32.6% of senior associates, 22.6 % of non-equity partners and then 20.7% of equity partners.

Additional contributors to the paper include Dr. Jennica Webster, co-director of the IWL and associate professor of management in the College of Business Administration; Sarah Camp, IWL coordinator; and an interdisciplinary student research team. The research team included Kelly Krause, Anne Radosevich and Elizabeth Reinowski from Marquette Law School; Olivia Qualls, from the College of Business Administration, and Damaris Zita, of the Diederich College of Communication.

Institute for Women's LeadershipIWL is also hosting a Pay Equity Series this spring focusing on the variety of issues that are at play within discussions on pay equity.

Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage and director of the Food Labor Research Center at UC–Berkeley will keynote the next conversation in the Pay Equity Series on the impact of subminimum wage on March 16. Registration is available online.

The next topic will be “Paid Family and Medical Leave” on April 20, while a previous talk on “Paycheck Fairness and Equity Audits” was held on Feb. 16 and is available on demand.

The Institute for Women’s Leadership builds upon Marquette University’s historic role as the first coeducational Catholic university in the world beginning in 1909. The mission of the IWL is to advance women’s leadership locally and globally through pioneering research, innovative programming and collaborative engagement.

About Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

Kevin is the associate director for university communication in the Office of University Relations. Contact Kevin at (414) 288-4745 or kevin.m.conway@marquette.edu