The purpose of this study was to identify barriers to the advancement and retention of women lawyers in the State of Utah. Ranking last in the nation in terms of women’s overall professional advancement and the gender wage gap, Utah represents a unique professional landscape for women. This context has important implications for women’s advancement in law, as the current study finds that in Utah women comprise 44% of law school graduates yet only 12% of law firm partners.
To identify the barriers limiting women’s advancement in law, the current study relied on a multi-method research design that included a statewide survey and forty-seven in-depth interviews with women lawyers and judges across the state.
2020 Statewide Survey
The research team designed a survey using questions from two previous surveys: (1) the 2010 Utah study of women in law sponsored by the Women Lawyers of Utah and the Utah State Bar; and (2) a 2018 national survey conducted by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law.
To evaluate change over time in patterns of bias in Utah’s legal profession, we replicated questions from the 2010 Utah survey, including questions about employment, workplace authority and work experience. To evaluate patterns of racial and gender bias in Utah against national trends, the survey replicated questions from the 2018 national study that focused on experiences of implicit bias.
In February 2020, the research team launched an online Qualtrics survey to all members on the Utah State Bar’s listserv. A total of 2,304 respondents completed the survey before it closed in March 2020.
2020 In-Depth Interviews with Women Lawyers
The research team conducted forty-seven in-depth interviews with women lawyers and judges across the state. To elicit a broad range of experiences, we relied on multiple recruitment strategies including key informant and snowball sampling techniques. In order recruit a diverse group of interviewees, we strategically recruited women of color, LGBTQ+ women, solo practitioners, judges and women employed outside of the Salt Lake City area. Interview questions focused on work history, career mobility and work/life balance.