​WBA Issue Statement on Equal Pay

In 2016, women’s earnings overall were approximately 80% of men’s earnings in the U.S. Black and Hispanic women earned approximately 63% and 54% of white men’s earnings, respectively. According to the National Women’s Law Center, the average woman will lose more than $400,000 over the course of her career.1

Young women entering the workforce earn 88% of their male counterparts’ salaries, and the gap continues to widen as women progress in their careers. Mothers are not only paid less than fathers, they can be perceived as less competent than women without children. Entering retirement, women face a shortfall of $4,000 per year in Social Security benefits compared to men of the same age. Additionally, an employer’s reliance on a woman’s past salary history can perpetuate pay inequality for years, if not throughout her career. 

Women lawyers also face pay disparity and equal pay remains an obstacle for women lawyers as they attempt to progress through the ranks.2 Women lawyers are given fewer opportunities to take on important cases and clients than their male counterparts, thus diminishing their chances to reach leadership positions in their organizations. In commercial law firms, this means that women have lower chances of receiving origination credit compensation.Women lawyers have historically been disproportionately placed on the counsel rather than the partner track, denied opportunities for client networking, and left without partnership sponsors, further limiting their ability to advance to equity partner and law firm leadership. Whether women are working in law firms or in other organizations, they continue to face reduced opportunities and mentorship. The result is lower pay, even for women at the top. Fewer women are found in high-ranking positions to serve as leaders and role models and to ensure that other women lawyers achieve equal pay and equal opportunities to advance.

Equal pay enables women to save more money for retirement, pursue educational and business opportunities, pay off student debt earlier, and purchase homes. Equal pay further enables women, particularly single women with children, to better provide for their families. Additionally, equal pay empowers women to influence our society in greater measure through contributions to educational institutions, charities, and political campaigns. 

For over 100 years, the WBA has advocated for equality, including equal pay and opportunities for women, and it will continue to do so. During the 1980s, the WBA endorsed federal equal pay legislation. In 2017, the WBA presented the “Equal Pay Day Author’s Panel,” a thought-provoking discussion of women’s continuing struggle for equal pay, featuring authors whose work focuses on equality in compensation.

1 The Wage Gap: The Who, How, Why, and What to Do, The National Women’s Law Center (Sept. 19, 2017), nwlc.org/resources/the-wage-gap-the-who-how-why-and-what-to-do.
2 Debra Cassens Weiss, Full-Time Female Lawyers Earn 77 Per Cent of Male Lawyer Pay, The American Bar Association, (March 17, 2016),
www.abajournal.com/news/article/pay_gap_is_greatest_in_legal_occupations.
3 Ashleigh Buckett & Jane Ellis, Women in Commercial Legal Practice, (Dec. 2017), www.ibanet.org/ENews_Archive/IBA-December-2017-Enews.aspx.