The compensation gap between men and women is significant at the highest levels of law department leadership, and smallest among entry-level in-house lawyers, while outside experience leads to higher total pay, according to a report from the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC).
Room for optimism
Female GCs still earn less than their male counterparts, and the gap is significant at the highest levels of law department leadership and smallest among entry-level in-house lawyers. Males earn a median of $270,000 in total compensation compared with $210,000 for females, despite having similar experience levels overall and in their current position. However, the gender compensation gap shrinks for GCs graduating after 2009, suggesting more parity for newer lawyers. The disparity in median compensation among GCs graduating after 2010 is less than half of the gap among GCs who graduated law school prior to 2000. Veta T. Richardson, president & CEO of ACC, said ‘while it was not a surprise, it was certainly disheartening to see the extent of gender pay disparities in the in-house community,’ adding ‘yet we are optimistic that the gap appears to shrink for newer generations of corporate counsel leaders and hope the data in the survey will yield more transparency.’
Outside experience pays off
While 15 percent of all survey respondents said their first job after law school was in a corporate legal department, the findings show that even two years of outside experience in a law firm, government, or other setting equates to higher compensation. Overall, entry level in-house lawyers have the most gender parity in compensation, with women earning 91 cents on the dollar compared to their male colleagues. The pay gap peaks for lawyers who have 11 to 20 years of in-house tenure; female in-house lawyers receive 69 percent of their male counterparts’ compensation. Worldwide, the largest gender pay gaps are in Latin America and the Middle East/Africa, where women in-house lawyers made between 38 and 45 percent of what their male colleagues earned, respectively. The United States, Canada, and Australia, had the smallest gaps (85, 83, and 81 percent, respectively). Biotechnology/life sciences, technical/research development, and accommodation/food services are the highest paying industries for GCs and CLOs. While total compensation is higher in public companies than in private companies.