NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Men who are partners in top U.S. law firms average a yearly income of nearly one million dollars, while women in the same jobs make a third less money, according to research released on Thursday.
The income gap between men and women has its roots in how much business they lure to their firms and their hourly rates, said Major, Lindsey & Africa, a legal research company that conducted the survey.
In the United States overall, women last year working full-time year-round earned 80 percent of what men earned, according to commonly cited data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Another recently published calculation - factoring in women who leave and return to the paid work force, often to care for families - showed women earning 49 cents for every man’s dollar.
At top U.S. law firms, the average income for male partners last year was $959,000 and $627,000 for female partners, the legal research found.
U.S. law firms typically feature partnerships, in which lawyers become part-owners and share in profits. Male partners bring in an average of $2.7 million in client business compared with $1.6 million for women, and men’s hourly billing rates averaged $736 compared with $650 for women, the research said.
The findings raise questions of why women bring in less business, said Jeffrey Lowe, author of the study and global practice leader of the research firm’s legal practice.
“Is it the old boys’ network that is driving the relationships? Are women excluded from participating in activities that might lead to business, either consciously or unconsciously?” he said to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Female partners may tend to work in less profitable areas of the law, the research said.
The firm surveyed 1,390 U.S. law partners.
Congress outlawed pay discrimination based on gender in 1963, yet public debate over why wages still lag drastically for women has snowballed in recent years.
Globally, the World Economic Forum reported an economic gap of 58 percent between the sexes for 2016.