Friday, January 29, 1999

Women, minorities
underpaid as lawyers

By Susan Kreifels


More women and minorities are practicing law in Hawaii, but they're getting paid less overall than their Caucasian male colleagues, according to a survey completed by the Hawaii State Bar Association.

Minorities, however, continue to be underrepresented in the profession.

And about one-fifth of women respondents reported sexual discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.

"Despite the strides women and minorities have made, the issues of fairness and equality still need addressing," said Cara Mei Kam Ching, chair of the HSBA's Committee on Gender and Other Fairness.

The survey was conducted in 1997 and results compiled by volunteers last year. The HSBA said it sent out 595 surveys spread among its 3,660 active members then, and 345 were returned.

Some of the survey findings:

bullet The percentage of women attorneys increased from 24 percent in 1990 to 33 percent in 1997. More partners and supervisors were male; more women were associate or staff attorneys.

bullet Entry-level salaries were nearly equal, but differences increased with the number of years of practice.

The average salary for men was $92,262, down from $92,762 in 1990. Women's average salary was $65,886, up from $54,185 in 1990.

Male partners and supervisors reported significantly higher pay: The average income for males was $110,760; for females, $94,988.

bullet In some cases, ethnicity added to gender income gaps. Caucasian male partners and supervisors reported the highest average income, $123,156. Japanese women associates and staff attorneys were paid the lowest average, $59,989.

bullet Government attorneys reported making approximately $20,000 less than private attorneys.

bullet Japanese and Caucasians are overrepresented in the profession, while Filipinos and Hawaiians are underrepresented, Ching said. The number of Caucasians declined from 46 percent to 38 percent. Twenty-eight percent were Japanese, 9 percent Hawaiian and 9 percent Chinese. Sixteen percent were labeled "other ethnicity," including Filipinos and Koreans.

On perceptions about work:

bullet Twenty percent of women respondents said they had encountered sexual discrimination in the workplace; 18 percent, sexual harassment.

bullet Attorneys are generally satisfied with their careers, with women reporting slightly higher satisfaction.

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