Over the last two decades, we have witnessed a transformation for women in law, but not a transformation in leadership positions. Almost 30% of lawyers are women, but they represent only about 15% of federal judges and law firm partners, and about 10% of law school deans and general counsel positions at Fortune 500 companies. The same patterns are apparent in other leadership sectors, such as management and politics. Women are half the electorate but only 15% of Congress and 6% of state governors. They account for about half of managers but only 1% of the Chief Executive Officers of Fortune 500 companies. The underrepresentation of women of color is even greater. They account for only about 1% of corporate officers, and under 1% of law firm partners. What explains these disparities is a matter of dispute. One aim of the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Women in the Profession is to explore the reasons why, and to identify strategies for change. To that end, the Commission and the Leadership Institute of Harvard's Kennedy School of Public Policy cosponsored a leadership summit focusing on “the difference ‘difference’ makes,” and that is the subject of my talk today. The summit included a gifted group of leaders and scholars who study leaders—including Patricia Schroeder, Patricia Ireland, Eleanor H. Norton, Sheila Wellington, and Elaine Jones. Their contributions are collected in a forthcoming collection, The Difference “Difference” Makes: Women and Leadership. I provided the opening essay for that collection and my aim in these brief remarks today is to give you a sense of the most important research on gender and leadership. This is no small task. Recent surveys have identified over 5000 scholarly works on leadership, and an additional cottage industry of self-help publications and popular commentary. A growing segment of this work focuses on women. I will try only to highlight the key findings.
Deborah L. Rhode,
Keynote Address: The Difference "Difference" Makes,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol55/iss1/3