Harvard graduates study: women who succeed

A very interesting study emerging from Harvard Law School has a raft of findings on gender, including the following which is based on following a number of Harvard Law School cohorts well into their careers (ten years plus):

  • Female respondents are less likely to be married than male respondents.
  • The percentage of male partners who are married far outpaces the percentage of women partners who are married.
  • The percentage of women partners who have never been married is significantly greater than the percentage of male partners who have never been married.
  • Twice as many women partners as men partners report having zero children.
  • Women respondents took significantly more actions, such as going part time, as a result of having a child as compared to men.
  • Women respondents report feeling significantly more work place consequences, including loss of seniority, as a result of having a child as compared to men.
  • Even with no children, women HLS graduates in the sample are just as likely as their male counterparts with two or more children to be in the full time work force
  • Less than half of female respondents with two or more children are still in the full time workforce
  • Women have spouses/partners that work, on average, more hours than the spouses/partners of men.
  • Women partners have spouses/partners that work, on average, more hours than the spouses/partners of non-partner men.

The report is here.

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About Richard Moorhead

Director of the Centre for Ethics and Law and Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at the Faculty of Laws, University College London with an interest in teaching and research on the legal ethics, the professions, legal aid, access to justice and the courts.
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3 Responses to Harvard graduates study: women who succeed

  1. Andrew says:

    Interesting. Here, however, is an important passage from the report:

    “The overall response rate for the survey was 35 percent—a relatively high response rate for a survey of this kind. As an additional check on the representativeness of our data, we conducted an analysis of respondents and non-respondents using information from HLS records (see below). Based on this analysis, we have weighted survey responses to account for the most important differences between respondents and non-respondents in a manner that enhances the integrity of our conclusions.”

    I do not see how weighting responses can enhance the integrity of the conclusions. The fact is that two thirds of the possible respondents did not answer and that must affect the validity of the results. As an obvious example: people are more likely to reply to an invitation to report whether or not they are the subject of discrimination if they think they are – and of course thinking so proves nothing – than if they do not.

    And then these points from the summary;

    “Women respondents took significantly more actions, such as going part time, as a result of having a child as compared to men.

    Less than half of female respondents with two or more children are still in the full time workforce.”

    Hardly a surprise there. For whatever reason – nature or nurture – women are far more likely than men to choose the full-time home-maker track than men, and it is only partly in the gift of employers to change that. And when that happens for a number of years it is the demands of someone else’s career which determine where that woman lives, and that restricts her ability to return to work even if she wants to: quite apart from the obvious point that no employer can be expected to keep her seat warm for several years between the birth of the first child and the youngest being at full-time school, which is what these career breaks usually cover. And if a woman goes back it is with less experience that her contemporaries, male and female, who did not take a break.

    And that feeds into their chances of making partner or (outside private practice) reaching senior levels – and that must be factored in in considering figures about how many men and women get to the top. In short: if you spent nine or ten years of your live outside the law you are not likely to make up the shortfall. That’s life.

  2. dominique says:

    Indeed Andrew. I must agree with both your submissions.1. The point about the integrity of the solutions and 2, the fact that it is a given that if you leave the work environment for any length of time, you are always going to be at an advantage to those who don’t- i.e. generally the male employees who are not primary caregivers.
    However, there does not seem to be a solution to this does there? It seems to me however, and I have heard it said at a recent SA Law Teachers Conference on the topic of BEE and gender/transformation etc, that ultimately, women if they do decide to go back into the profession in whatever capacity, are more inclined to work hard and achieve more than the males who have not had a break and are starting to reach burnout. So in the long term, women are often your best return on investment but in general, most employers are unwilling to take the risk.

    What I am also interested to know is how many women in full- time employ have more than 3 children? This didn’t seem part of the survey. And also- what ratios are of divorce of full time women employees with children to non-working women with children. Not sure if this was borne out in the stats- glossed over some of it.
    Richard, as someone interested in ethics in general though, I’m thrilled to have come across your blog which I find more fun reading than an academic journal. So thanks so much for sharing here.

    • Richard Moorhead says:

      Delighted to be of service! There’s been some work on whether ‘time put’ explains salary and/or promotion differentials (sorry to be hazy, I can’t remember exactly) and it suggests it doesn’t explain all of it. If anyone reading the blog remembers it I’d be delighted to be reminded…

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