From the frying pan to the fire : lateral movement and the lack of women equity partners
Author(s)Hsi, Helen (Helen Hung Ying)
Lateral movement and the lack of women equity partners
Sloan School of Management.
Thomas A. Kochan.
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Introduction: Women attorneys are underrepresented in equity partnership positions in law firms. In Massachusetts, only 17% of equity partners in the 100 largest firms are women even though half of law school graduates and first-year associates are women (MIT Workplace Center Survey, 2005). Restricting the sample to years in which women have graduated from law schools in large numbers, the percentage only goes up slightly to 21% (NAWL, 2006). Even more discouraging, the survey data show that of women in law firms, the percentage occupying equity partner positions grew by only one percent between 2002 and 2004, whereas the percentage of men in equity partnership positions grew by two percent. The lack of women in professional leadership is an important problem because promotion to equity partner not only confers a large increase in income, but also confers social and political capital as members of the professional elite. Therefore, the lack of women in equity positions has greater societal implications for the access and opportunities of future generations of women lawyers (Beckman and Phillips 2005). Past research on gender differences in labor market outcomes have identified work and family conflict as a reason why women experience lower levels of attainment in the labor market (Bailyn 1993, Hochschild 1990, Perlow 1995). The argument is that the number of dual-earner couples has increased while the number of hours required for maintaining work and family have not changed-making time a scarce resource (Berg et al. 2003). Because women still assume the lion's share of household and childcare responsibilities, they have less time to devote to work and experience less success in the labor market. However, this past literature has mostly focused on the effect of work and family conflict on attainment within firms. This paper asks whether the time bind affects a woman's labor market attainment across firms. Specifically, I ask whether women lawyers who switch firms face a lower probability of promotion than their male counterparts and whether this disadvantage can be explained by a desire for more manageable hours. Law is an ideal profession for examining how time conflicts affect a woman's probability of promotion across firms because the promotion to partnership is easily identified, there is tremendous time pressure in law as a result of billable hours requirements, and the legal environment has undergone institutional changes that have made lateral job movements increasingly important for partnership (Phillips 2001, Galanter and Paylay 1991). Using data from two surveys by the MIT Workplace Center on lawyers and law firms in Massachusetts, this research finds that women who switch to small firms face a significant promotion disadvantage that arises out of a desire for shorter work hours-an effect that is larger than the promotion disadvantage experienced by women with children. Whereas within-firm research emphasizes the role of job structure, work culture, and human resource practices as factors that affect a worker's ability to balance work and family (Batt and Valcour 2003, Berg et al. 2003, Perlow 1995) an inter-firm approach highlights the importance of broader institutional differences between firms, such as the strength of internal labor markets.
Thesis (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, 2010.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references.
DepartmentSloan School of Management.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sloan School of Management.