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COVID Take a Toll on Women’s Legal Careers

Law360 – “…As early as April 2020, economists coined the term “she-cession” to describe the pandemic-fueled economic downturn’s effect on the unemployment rate among women. While past recessions took a larger toll on men, the global job loss rate for women last year was 1.8 times higher than it was for men, according to a “Women in the Workplace” study from McKinsey & Co. Economists pointed to two reasons for the shift. Women tend to work in sectors hit hard by the pandemic, like education and the service industry. And, with schools shifting online and children stuck at home, working mothers grappled with tough decisions. A study of law firm departures by the legal industry data company Firm Prospects found the number of attorneys who left BigLaw went down in 2020, and the percentage of departing attorneys who were women was comparable to past years. But that might not be the end of the story, according to Bobbi Liebenberg and Stephanie Scharf, principals at The Red Bee Group, a consulting firm for corporations and law firms. They’re at work on a study about the pandemic’s impact on women’s legal careers and say an exodus could be on the horizon. “People may not have left physically, but they are leaving mentally,” Liebenberg says. “Women are looking for legal employers that have more predictability for schedules and more flexibility. I think because of the pandemic, people are reevaluating what they want out of work.” The McKinsey study of women in corporate jobs found that 1 in 4 were considering “downshifting” their careers or leaving the workforce due to COVID-19. There was a significant gender divide among parents…”

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