On Kirton McConkie’s (Lack of) Women Shareholders

The other night, I was listening to the most recent Slate Money podcast. In its second segment, the hosts talked about the recent gender pay report in the United Kingdom. They specifically mentioned about Goldman Sachs and Condé Nast, both of which, it turns out, have a pretty sizeable gender pay difference.[fn1]

There are undoubtedly many reasons why men’s income was significantly higher than women’s, but the podcast highlighted one in particular: high earners. At Goldman, women make up only 17% of the top quartile by income. At Condé Nast, there are more women at every income quartile, but it appears that incomes are skewed by the top 5%; in fact, the five-person executive committee is entirely men. What does the UK gender pay disparity have to do with Mormonism? It’ll take a couple steps to get there, but my thought process went something like this:

Gender in Legal Practice

I’m a law professor, and prior to legal academia, I was a practicing attorney at a big white shoe law firm in New York. And hearing about the lack of women at the top of Goldman Sachs and Condé Nast made me think of the law. See, legal practice has an enormous attrition of women as they rise through the ranks. Women make up just under half of law students, and receive just under half of JDs awarded.[fn2] They make up about 45% of associates.[fn3] But women only make up a hair more than 20% of partners. That is, for some reason (or, more likely, reasons) women leave law firms before making partner or without making partner.

Gender in Legal Practice in Salt Lake

I became curious about how these numbers played out in Salt Lake. Now clearly, not all attorneys in Salt Lake are Mormon, and the vast majority of Mormons in Salt Lake are not attorneys. Still, how women did in Salt Lake firms struck me as an interesting question, and not one entirely irrelevant to lived Mormonism.

In 2010, the Women Lawyers of Utah initiative did a study of precisely what I was wondering about, and the results were, well, abysmal. Similar to today, eight years ago, about 19% of law firm partners nationally were women. And in Salt Lake? That number was 11%. Of course, those numbers are eight years old, and I couldn’t find anything more recent. So I decided to look at the numbers in a tiny, not-random, not-representative sample.

Now I’m not super-familiar with the legal market in Utah—I’ve heard of a couple law firms there, but don’t know how they’re positioned. I was interested in looking at big law firms with relatively sophisticated practices, both because that’s the world I came from and because small firms risked more noise in the data. To figure out which ones, I Googled, then looked at the number of attorneys and their practice areas. I ended up deciding on six firms:

I wanted to focus solely on Salt Lake offices, so, other than Snow Christensen, where a firm had more than one office, I only looked at partners are the Salt Lake office.[fn4] Once I was looking at Salt Lake partners, I counted the number of partners who were women and the total number of partners. And how did the firms come out?

The firms I looked at still tended to fall behind the national average, but, by and large, did a lot better than the 2010 study. Here’s how these firms are doing:

  • S&W: 5 of 25 partners in Salt Lake (20%) are women.
  • PBG&L: 10 of 57 (18%) shareholders are women.
  • RQ&N: 9 of 69 shareholders (13%) are women.
  • H&H: 9 of 47 partners (19%) in Salt Lake are women.
  • SC&M: 5 of 35 of shareholders (14%) are women.
  • KM: 4 of 93 shareholders (4%) are women. (I had to double- and triple-check this number..)

So What to Do About It?

There are two big groups that can cause law firms to diversify: their own attorneys and their clients. The good news is, Kirton McConkie seems to recognize that having women is important. Among its associates, 15 of the 35 attorneys (43%) are women. That provides the firm with a pipeline to partnership.

Unfortunately, as the national numbers show, without active engagement, equal numbers of associates doesn’t lead to equal numbers of partners. And that’s borne out by the experience of Kirton; in the last two years, they’ve elected five new shareholders. Of those five, only one was a woman.

But there’s another side to the problem: clients. When clients demand diversity, law firms work to provide it. And guess who is one of Kirton’s major clients? The church! If the church were to exert pressure, Kirton would presumably do what it needed to advance more women, and to diversify its partnership ranks.[fn5]

It won’t be easy. It will take an active focus, not only on voting for women when the shareholder meetings happen, but on enacting policies that retain, advance, and prepare women. And the national market needs to do it. But so does the Salt Lake market, and so does the church’s external counsel.


[fn1] At Goldman, women’s mean hourly rate was 55.5% lower than men’s, while their median hourly rate was 36.4% lower. At Condé Nast, those numbers were 36.9% and 23.3% lower, respectively.

[fn2] For all of the national statistics, I’m using the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession’s January 2017 report.

[fn3] In case you’re not familiar with legal practice terminology, “associates” are basically junior and mid-level attorneys. They’re employees of the law firm, and get paid a salary. At some point, the firm allows certain attorneys to buy in, and become equity owners of the firm (which means that, at the end of the year, they share in the firm’s profits). Depending on how the firm is organized, these attorneys are either “partners” or “shareholders.” In New York, most law firms are organized as partnerships, so I always think partner. In Utah, it looks like many are organized as professional corporations, and so the equity owners are shareholders. Either way, the partners and shareholders are the senior attorneys and the higher earners.

[fn4] Snow Christensen’s website made that hard: you can filter attorneys by position or by office, but not by both, and filtering by office, I would have had to click on every name to see whether the attorney was a shareholder or not. That was more work than I was willing to do for a blog post, so my numbers for Snow include both Salt Lake and St. George attorneys.

[fn5] I’ll note that I suspect the representation of attorneys of color and of LGBT attorneys in national and in Salt Lake law firms is even worse. I didn’t look at that question because race is harder to divine from names, and sexual orientation is impossible. I will say, though, that I don’t remember seeing any persons of color among the pictures of partners I looked at; I didn’t look at pictures in every case, though, and that wasn’t the question I had, so I may have missed somebody. It’s worth noting that The Vault has data on larger national firms (though not divided by office), so I do know the national numbers for Snell & Wilmer and for Holland & Hart. Among partners at S&L, 19 of 182 (6%) are non-white, and none are openly LGBT. At H&H, 11 of 262 (4.2%) are non-white, and 2 (0.8%) are openly LGBT.


  1. Interesting work, Sam. I’m curious how comments will run (so I’ll check back). My two cents is that in the world of biglaw, which is where I live, there are all sorts of intermediate reasons that can be given but to me 4% in 2018 means that you’re not trying, not paying attention.

  2. I think that’s right, Chris. The world of biglaw is not great, but the market is not single-digit women partners.

  3. Christian: Bingo.

  4. Did you look at equity vs non-equity partners/shareholders? Not sure how it works in Utah, but obviously at many big law firms there’s a tiered partnership, where some “partners” aren’t actually equity/share partners, but have the partner title. I know that can sometimes clutter the data – firms will say “35% of our partners are women!” when really women are largely non-equity and don’t actually share profits. On my firm’s website there’s no way to tell if a person is equity or non-equity, so not sure how to actually do that. I do know that about 19% of our equity partners are female – and at my last firm, the number was similar. It’s not great, but 4%? 4% is abysmal. Like, frankly so unacceptable that I’m surprised that there are even any female associates at all at the firm. I know the odds of me making partner at my firm aren’t great, but 4%? That’s just like straight up telling women they aren’t welcome.

  5. I took the bar exam in Boise about seven years ago, and I was surprised at how few women were taking the exam at that time. My law school on the other side of the country was about 50% women, but it seemed like only about 20% of those taking the bar exam with me were women. I wonder what the stats look like for men/women ratios at law schools that have a lot of LDS students (BYU, U of U, U of Idaho, etc.) How big of an impact does that have on your figures?

  6. Another thing – my firm is doing a huge push for diversity because clients are demanding it, as you mentioned. We’ve had clients send surveys asking how many women, how many people of color, how many LTGBQ individuals, etc. are working on their matters. How my current firm handles diversity vs. how my former firm handles diversity is like night and day – and it’s my impression that it’s probably 80% client driven. The institutional clients at my old firm weren’t pushing diversity, so the old firm didn’t either, and it’s totally different at my current firm. To be fair, pushing for diversity hasn’t seemed to do much to increase the number of women who are equity partners, but it’s not a problem that can be solved overnight (well, it *could* be, but old white male millionaires don’t seem to want to open their wallets and make the changes).

  7. TL, I don’t have a way to pick apart equity and non-equity partners. For big enough firms, the Vault seems to have that data, but not for regional firms.

    Tim, the initial pipeline in Utah is a little low–the University of Utah’s law school is about 40% women, and, while I can’t find full numbers for BYU, it reports that its class of 2020 is also about 40% (and I suspect that’s representative of the other two classes). And it’s worth keeping in mind both that other firms in Utah manage to have double-digit women partners (again, a low bar, but a bar, anyway), and Kirton has a 40+% women associate cohort.

  8. Results from U.S. News and World Report: BYU: 36.2% women. Utah: 46.2%. Idaho: 43.5. Concordia (Boise): 35.7.

  9. Agree that those KM numbers are absolutely abysmal.

  10. Kristin Brown says:

    Thank you for caring enough to gather all this information. “What to do about it” was fascinating and insightful. I also hope other people who know the business of law will respond.

  11. Suzanne Lucas says:

    My guess, regarding Kirton & McConkie is that precisely because it’s biggest client is the LDS church, it attracts Mormons. And I’ve got to assume that fewer Mormon women want to do the amount of work it takes to become a partner in a law firm.

    Harvard Economics Professor Claudia Goldman found that female lawyers preferred in-house gigs where the pay wasn’t as high but the hours were better. I would guess that for Mormon women that preference is even stronger.

    Full disclosure–I’m a McConkie, but not a lawyer and Oscar W. McConkie III is my dad’s cousin, so my first cousin once removed. I’ve met him but don’t know him.

  12. Thanks, Suzanne. It’s clearly possible that this is revealed preference of the women who go to KM, but I’m a little dubious. They’re pulling from the same set of people as other peer Salt Lake firms. It’s possible that their applicant class is more Mormon than that of their peers, but I don’t know that it is that significantly different.

    It’s worth noting, though, that if women are leaving because they prefer better hours, and are willing to take lower pay, that’s a problem that law firms can solve. At my firm, there was a flex-time option for partners. Does KM offer that option to its shareholders? I’m sure it provides maternity and paternity leave: does it encourage its male attorneys to take paternity leave? And does it let women who take a full maternity leave jump right back in without any formal or informal sanctions? Are the male shareholders willing to mentor female associates, even on a one-on-one basis?

    That last question strikes me as critical: there are four women partners, compared with almost 90 men. What that means is that, if mentoring happens only on a same-gender basis, each male partner only has to mentor roughly half [edit: 1/4; I did my math wrong] an associate; each female partner, on the other hand, has to mentor almost four associates.

    I have no idea what the gender dynamics are at Kirton, but I’ve heard enough Mormon men worry about going to lunch alone with a woman that I wouldn’t be shocked if there were a norm like that at Kirton (or, for that matter, other Salt Lake law firms). And that strikes me as devastating to the opportunity women have to rise in the ranks.

  13. “And I’ve got to assume that fewer Mormon women want to do the amount of work it takes to become a partner in a law firm.”

    I disagree with that – I don’t think it’s about the amount of work, or women being willing to work hard. I think there are a variety of issues, but I’m thinking of a couple in particular: (1) the fact that the method of becoming partner isn’t conducive to the lives of young women and young mothers (hard to work 80 hours a week as a young mom whose husband also works, unlike the men who became partners in the 80s or 90s who likely had stay at home wives handling the childrearing), and (2) that men within the institution don’t value women’s work (for example, the rampant issues related to unequal sharing of credits).

  14. it's a series of tubes says:

    Sam, given that I am in the denominator of one of your numbers in the OP (but I am not at K&M), I’ll offer my .02: in my interactions with K&M people, the gender dynamic has been one that would lead to exactly the percentage you identified. Frankly, I’m a little surprised the percentage is not zero.

  15. Aside from the fact that striving for gender parity is just the right thing to do, firms that don’t do it put themselves at a disadvantage. Certainly a marketing disadvantage, but also a substantive disadvantage when it comes to strategic thinking and advising.

    I’m increasingly convinced that it is impossible to exercise any kind of effective leadership over a large organization when the leaders are all one gender. I wonder, for example, whether a more gender-integrated leadership in a law firm would help firms avoid developing the kind of hyper-aggressive, blustery litigation style that some small-market litigation firms become known for. I’ve never really thought too much about it, but I’m wondering now if that kind of style owes a lot to a version of toxic masculinity. Regardless, that style is counterproductive and only hurts clients’ interests.

    Law in general, and biglaw in particular is male-dominated, but 4% is so far below market that a firm that only has 4% female partners looks to me like a firm that’s short sighted and not thinking strategically. I would consider it to be a red flag for either a toxic firm culture or a serious lack of judgment or both. Either way, a firm with only 4% female partners is, in my opinion, is simply not going to be able to consistently provide as good representation to its clients as one with a better ratio.

  16. I would bet a lot of money that the mentoring issue is huge.
    –A Professional Woman in Utah

  17. Repeating myself, having been in these conversations within big law firms for decades, mentoring, work hours, maternity/paternity leave, client preferences, cultural expectations, billing practices, staffing important matters, and more, are all real and things we worry over in the nature of moving from 20% to 50%. I worry that the difference between 20% and 4% is something different.

  18. Happy Hubby says:

    Interesting post and comments. I heard from a friend that the church was looking at purchasing some land (nowhere near Utah). The realtor was a female member of the church. She spent quite a bit of time into the prep work as well as showing prospective properties. When it came time to close the deal the church reps asked if there was a priesthood brother they could actually work the final purchase. It may be just a rumor, but it doesn’t seem outside the realm of believability and does line up as a mindset that could be one of the same reasons KM has a low % of females in the upper ranks.

  19. 4% is shockingly low in 2018. I also think a lot of women choose differently than men when it comes to where they practice law nationwide. A lot of women who also want to be mothers find it hard to compete for top positions at a firm in Utah, where many of the men have someone at home providing all childcare and home responsibilities so they can work crazy, long hours. Maternity leave policies are also culturally scarce in Utah.

    I have known a lot of men who burned out of big-law too, even those with a stay at home spouse. 4% is way too low, even accounting for that. I think you did the right thing comparing other Utah firms, who should have the same constraints and pool of talent.

    I wonder what percentage of their secretaries, paralegals, and admin staff are women. My guess, close to 100%. So taking mothers out of the home is probably not the issue. Consciously, or not, culturally we support men having a high performance career but only women who HAVE to work are acceptable, not those who want high performance careers.

  20. Happy Hubby:
    My husband is working with the church right now consulting on the seller side- The church is using a female real estate agent to buy the property and it’s a complicated transaction. I am not sure if they are employed by the church or contracted out. This is not in the Mormon belt, but there are enough LDS people here that they could have their pick of male real estate agents if they preferred.

  21. 14-year BigLaw veteran here, recently gone in-house. There’s a lot of BigLaw folks and BigLaw flunkies who inhabit the bloggernacle, so your mileage may vary, but my take on it is that BigLaw is a horribly difficult thing to do halfway. It doesn’t really matter that you have a life outside the office if there’s a response due–that response has to be timely and, frankly, perfect. And if that means staying until 2AM, then that means staying until 2AM. And if that means you miss your kid’s program and can’t get home to help your spouse so she can go to YW on a Wednesday night, then so be it. It pays well, for sure. But for most people I know, work-life balance was a bit of a myth.

    People who make partners in these shops often are the ones who are willing to put up with that crap the longest, not necessarily who was best at what they do. For the most part, people who go half-time, or aren’t willing to stay until 2AM, don’t make partner. My experience is that many women are willing to settle for less money–by going in-house or to a smaller shop or just quitting altogether if they have a spouse who can support them–once they start having kids. Not because they aren’t capable or hard working, but because the cost-benefit analysis stops working out. And, FWIW, I’ve seen many men do the same thing, though in lesser numbers, often because they have a spouse at home making it possible to bill 65 hours a week for six months straight.

    Why KM is so much lower than the rest of the market, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be surprised if having the Church as the largest client makes the decisions above that much starker–as in, “I’m going to spend hours and hours at my desk working for a church that tells me that family is the most important thing?”

  22. Anon for this says:

    Anyone connected to the legal community in Utah notices the disparity at KM as soon as they take a glance in that direction. I’m not at KM, but I’ve wondered about it. Reading this post, I realized that I’ve assumed for a long time that client influence at KM has worked against making women shareholders. The LDS Church is KM’s most important client because it defines the firm’s image as the church’s law firm. The connection to the Church is a selling point for other clients. It also affects the attorneys’ ideas about what the firm’s culture should be like. I assume that the Church does not pressure KM not to have women as shareholders, but there can be a weird vibe of righteous exceptionalism there: KM is doing God’s work, so politically correct things like diversity do not apply.

  23. Happy Hubby says:

    Thanks Mormom. I can believe what you are saying, but I can also see what my friend passed along as believable. Hopefully those aberrations are on their way to being non-existent.

  24. Happy Hubby: I am in no way saying your friend is lying. I wonder if that was years ago, or if whomever was running that division was going rouge? I just wanted to add my anecdotal evidence to yours.

  25. I have sometimes thought of KM as sort of an outsourced legal department for the Church. I suspect that if the Church moved that legal work in-house, the gender ratios would be the same, perhaps even lower. (I have never worked for the church nor do I have extensive experience with employees at headquarters, but my impression is that at high levels a highly disproportionate percentage are male.)

    It was not that long ago that presidents of the church explicitly and strongly discouraged married women or women with children from working outside the home. That rhetoric has mostly faded away (although it never has been disavowed), but I wonder if it does not continue to provide context and background for the low percentages among high level church employment and perhaps even at KM, given its most important client.

    In my mind, it would be odd for the Church to pressure KM to increase the percentage of female partners without making a concerted effort adjust its own gender balance of employees, and I tend to think that won’t happy (although I would be delighted to be proven wrong–it’s happened before).

  26. Kristine says:

    “Consciously, or not, culturally we support men having a high performance career but only women who HAVE to work are acceptable, not those who want high performance careers.”

    This is such an important point. Thank you, Mormom.

  27. Anon for This 2 says:

    I do support work for law firms (tech stuff, not a lawyer myself) and I’ve had several conversations with other legal support workers that the environment at KM is super toxic for women and that toxicity starts with the GAs that are involved. The women that said this were all very faithful members of the church who really struggled with some of the behaviors going on and chose to leave KM and find work elsewhere. I imagine if that is true for the support workers, it is true for the female attorneys as well.

  28. As a non lawyer who hires lawyers…..

    Big Law seems to me not an ideal place for active lds folks who have children to aspire to be a partner. The time commitment is just to big. That is why lots of lawyers go in house or work for smaller firms.

    Its hard enough if Dad is going 65 hours a week. Imagine if Mom is doing that with 2-4 kids at home.

    Work balance is really important for families.

  29. “culturally we support men having a high performance career but only women who HAVE to work are acceptable”
    “We”? Not my experience east of the continental divide. I did see this at the BYU law school in the 1980s. Nothing’s changed?

    What I do see everywhere is women hugely disproportionately responsible for child care, providing or arranging. That has a significant impact, day to day and on life choices.

    (I’m not completely out of touch—my current window on these things is three daughters (including -in laws) who are full-time professionals with graduate degrees.)

  30. Or imagine if Mom is doing that and Dad is home with the kids, or imagine that some lawyers, male or female, aren’t married or don’t have kids.

    I won’t argue with you that biglaw is a challenging environment to balance demands of work and family, but that’s true for men and for women both and doesn’t explain a failure to hire and promote so few women.

    (I also think the biglaw reputation for being non-family-friendly depends very much on the firm, the office within the firm, and the practice group within the office. No doubt there are terrible places, but I think the awfulness of it is sometimes over exaggerated.)

  31. Kristine says:

    “Its hard enough if Dad is going 65 hours a week. Imagine if Mom is doing that with 2-4 kids at home.”

    Bbell–the way to imagine it is to posit a dad who has a less demanding career and is a fully engaged parent. It’s really not that complicated.

  32. Actually, Bbell, you know, maybe that’s not quite fair. It does partially explain a disparity because, as Christian points out, women are disproportionately responsible for child care even when they are working. But it doesn’t explain why KM is so far behind not just the national curve, but even the Salt Lake curve.

  33. Amen, Kristine.

  34. Kristine says:

    Christian, I think your daughter and daughters-in-law are still outliers (in the best ways!) among LDS women of their age cohort. That will be less true in the next cohort, but I fear that many of the most ambitious girls will opt out of the church. This will leave the impression that active LDS mothers still prefer to specialize in childcare and homekeeping, but the causal arrow goes the other way: women who prefer to specialize in childcare and homekeeping remain active members of the church because their choices are affirmed there.

  35. Anon for this. says:

    An associate at Kirton took two months off to have a baby several years ago. However, she worked really hard and billed enough hours in the other ten months (while pregnant) to qualify for a bonus. Kirton then denied her the bonus, because she didn’t work the full year. True story, relayed to me by a female attorney who worked at K&M at the time.

    THAT is why Kirton cannot retain women. It has a deeply-entrenched misogynist culture that reflects the culture of its biggest client.

  36. Interesting point, Kristine–the reversal of causation. Or where intentional, the “Cuba strategy.” I hope your fears are not realized.

    It is true that my daughter and daughters-in-law, who hail from Illinois, Massachusetts and New Mexico, are probably not culturally Mormon in the way I think you’re talking about (which has nothing to do with their current activity and attitudes about the Church). I’m afraid that when the conversation turns to “we” I need definitions, since my cultural baggage does not immediately fill in with “Mormon” or “inter-mountain west Mormon” even at BCC, and certainly not when I’m thinking law firm hiring and promoting.

    Which ultimately leads to the one point worth making. Having taught, interviewed, hired, and worked with Mormon women lawyers, I would class every one I know as an outlier by your measure. I think there’s a big sifting and self selection going on. Which makes the KM numbers the more surprising (not to give other Utah law firms an easy pass).

  37. Kirton has hired many brilliant female associates over the years. Because of the work it does for the LDS Church, however, Kirton has tended to attract female associates who are also conservative Mormons. As a result, after a handful of years being associates they tend to take off years to raise their kids. The firm has very flexible terms for them, doing everything it can to hang onto them for as long as possible and accommodate their schedules, but the truth is that many want to focus on their families. The firm has always gladly taken them back when they desire to return.

  38. Tiberius says:

    “posit a dad who has a less demanding career and is a fully engaged parent.”

    For what it’s worth and to be fair, this is a bit rare in the United States no matter what the sociocultural context. Women still do the lion’s share of the housework and childcare in nearly all homes (blue state and red state alike), and time use surveys

    suggest that women haven’t traded their diaper changing for employed labor as much as they’ve traded their leisure time for employed labor–they still do the brunt of the housework either way. (And stay-at-home dads are almost complete unicorns–<1%.)

    I'm not arguing against the POV as much as guarding against the implied point that enlightened non-Mormon land has this figured out and we just need to get with the times. People arguing for some 50/50 co-parenting thing in Mormonism are essentially pointing towards a mythical land of work/life balance that doesn't really exist anywhere in the U.S. yet.

  39. Anon, that’s infuriating.

    JD, so the other Salt Lake firms with 3-5 times Kirton’s ratio are skewed because they’re packed with liberal non-Mormon female partners that don’t take time for their families?

  40. Okay, maybe that’s a little unfair, JD. Your point is that Kirton’s abysmal ratio is due only to self-selection, and not a failure to support female partners. Full disclosure: I find that very hard to believe, but I’d be willing to be convinced if somebody were to do a comparison of family-friendly policies at the various SLC firms.

    But regardless, if the firm can’t attract female lawyers that stick around and are successful while the rest of the legal industry can and continues to do so, that’s going to hurt the firm and its clients in the long run, so if the firm is smart, they’ll be thinking of solutions that change that, not just throw up their hands and be content with it.

  41. Suzanne Lucas says:

    Anon wrote: “An associate at Kirton took two months off to have a baby several years ago. However, she worked really hard and billed enough hours in the other ten months (while pregnant) to qualify for a bonus. Kirton then denied her the bonus, because she didn’t work the full year. True story, relayed to me by a female attorney who worked at K&M at the time.”

    FYI, that’s called FMLA interference and it’s flat out illegal. Now, I’m not saying that law firms don’t violate the law–in fact I see law firms painfully unaware of employment law all the freaking time. (I write about HR issues and business for a living, so I keep up on all this stuff.)

    If an employee takes an FMLA protected leave (which, assuming she’d been there for 12 months prior to giving birth, it would be), you can’t count that against her when it comes time to do bonuses, You can pro-rate it (if she took 3 months off, gets 75 percent), but you can’t deny it. In performance evaluations, you can only evaluate the time she was actually there.

    So, I hope your friend retained an employment lawyer and sued.

  42. Susan, I’m not offering a legal opinion on whether KM violated the FMLA rights of the associate described above, but that story sounds to me more like FMLA retaliation than FMLA interference.

  43. Hedgehog says:

    Anon for this, that is horrifying and was illegal here in England 20 years ago, never mind today. I qualified legally for an annual bonus having been on maternity leave for nearly half the financial year, and that from a small firm of patent searchers… Utah is so far from family friendly in its employment legislation…

  44. Rexicorn says:

    @christiankimball, for what it’s worth, I had female friends in the BYU law school in 2007-2010 who were told they were taking a spot that a “provider” should take and that it was inappropriate for them to be in Law School at all (not by professors, though). The idea that a woman should only work if she HAS to, and then only as much as she absolutely must, is also one I was very much marinated in throughout my upbringing, and I grew up on the west coast. When I got married a few years back, my friends (liberal West Coasters all) agreed I was lucky to find a man who was willing to actively prioritize my career instead of just sort of tolerate it until babies arrive. I doubt the women you’ve met have never faced these ideas; they’ve probably just developed a filter for it that’s conducive to their professional success.

    These kind of gendered pressures definitely do exist outside Mormondom (especially when it comes to household labor and childcare), but it’s especially acute within Mormonism. I mean, just look at what’s taught over the pulpit about women in the workplace — it’s generally framed as a necessary evil, not something to encourage and promote.

  45. Kristine says:

    Tiberius–no disagreement from me. I just want it to be *thinkable,* even if it isn’t practical right now.

  46. Tiberius says:

    Another angle on JKC’s point above: conservative Mormon women probably have more family to take care of–professional women have their 1.4 or whatever kids, while conservative Mormon women are probably going to have more. If you know that you’ll have two decades of intermittent maternity leave, that’s going to affect how you structure your life. The rationale makes sense to me in regards to self-selection; that’s not saying that non-Mormon female partners don’t take time for their 1.4 children, or that there aren’t structural employment issues at play as well.

  47. FWIW, I’m fully on board with the idea that parents should prioritize their parenthood over their career. I don’t like the idea that mothers bear that responsibility, but not fathers.

  48. Kristine says:

    Yeah, Tiberius–I can pretty easily think of the various pressures that conservative Mormon women feel, as well as the heartfelt choices they might make, that make it difficult for them to have high-powered careers. I was once an ambitious Ivy League graduate making those choices, and I have the unfancy job and small salary that go with making the choices that were most encouraged in YW :)

  49. Rexicorn says:

    Tiberius, that’s a good point that I hadn’t thought of. Ambitious professional women also tend to have children later, so they have more flexibility and childcare resources when those children are born. They’ve also made themselves a little less expendable than someone in an entry-level job would be, so they probably face fewer professional costs. I don’t have experience in law, but in the industries I do have contact with there’s a lot of strategizing among women who want to reach high levels about exactly how far along in their careers they should be before considering children. It’s part of why egg-freezing is getting more common. Conservative/traditional Mormon women probably don’t make those kinds of calculations, or they prioritize having children younger.

  50. Rexicorn and Tiberius, that’s all true, but I don’t think it can fully explain 4%.

    I would be curious to know (1) of all practicing LDS lawyers, what percentage are female, and how does that compare to KM’s nearly 50% ratio for associates, and (2) of all LDS lawyers that are partners at national or regional firms, what percentage are female and how does that compare to KM’s 4%.

  51. Kevin Barney says:

    My firm is not a BigLaw shop; we have a little over 500 attorneys in 17 locations nationwide. But we’re very diverse. We have a full-time Director of Diversity, and according to the most recent diversity report I could find on our website (2016), over 50% of our attorneys are women and/or minorities. (My office in Chicago has 12 attorneys, of which five are women and one is an African-American man, so we’re close to the overall firm averages.) Although our firm leadership has long had a strong commitment to diversity, as the OP states a lot of the push for it has been client-driven. Some months ago a leader in another firm that was retained for a big deal was grilled mercilessly by the Chicago City Council for the firm’s perceived lack of adequate diversity. I can promise you, you don’t go through something like that and not make substantial changes (which that particular firm has indeed started doing.) In my practice area (public finance), a lack of diversity is a death knell. So based on that experience, I’m inclined to see the KM demographics as in some way connected to its major client, as if there were some sort of patriarchal spillover from the Church to the firm. Because I guarantee you, if the Church made it clear they wanted diversity in the top ranks, a captive firm like that would move mountains to make it happen.

  52. Rexicorn says:

    Oh yeah, there’s definitely something up at KM.

  53. Tiberius says:

    “I was once an ambitious Ivy League graduate making those choices, and I have the unfancy job and small salary that go with making the choices that were most encouraged in YW :)”

    Me too on every point (except trade YM instead of YW); in the end I’m glad that my temporary genuflection towards academia and its hollow honors didn’t cost me any of my children.

    In regards to Rexicorn’s point above, during graduate school my children were the same ages as my professors’. I definitely saw that wait-until-after-tenure/partner dynamic, and why not if you only want one child? But it does get trickier if you want a clan. With today’s competitiveness would President Nelson have been able to climb to the top of his profession with a young, large family? (Although it probably helped that he didn’t have a lot of Church leadership callings during that time). I think that’s an open question. At the most I think you may be able to have one high powered career and one big family, but I have yet to see a two-high powered career large family that made it work. (If someone knows of one I’d love to talk :)

  54. Tiberius says:

    “I was once an ambitious Ivy League graduate making those choices, and I have the unfancy job and small salary that go with making the choices that were most encouraged in YW :)”

    Me too on every point (except YM instead of YW); in the end I’m glad that my temporary genuflection towards academia and its hollow honors didn’t cost me any of my children.

    At the most you may be able to have one high powered career and one big family, but I have yet to see a two-high powered career large family that made it work. (Not saying they absolutely don’t exist). Women might be willing to find a husband who’s willing to be the primary caregiver to a large family, but like I mentioned that’s rare.

  55. I know my experience is atypical. I am an attorney in federal practice, and at a meeting this morning with eight relatively senior people, I was the only male in the room. And I was NOT the senior person. This was such a normal setting that nobody thought to mention it.

  56. I am a partner at one of the other large SLC-based firms mentioned in the OP (definitely not K&M). I think all Salt Lake firms struggle with keeping good female lawyers, and it is much harder with active-LDS women. They are told by the church that they need to have families and be good mothers, but those goals/values are hard to reconcile with the realities of practicing law which is stressful, demanding and often unpleasant. Our firm and others have tried to implement flexible work schedules and I think we bend over backwards to try to keep them, but its hard.

    FWIW, we invest a huge amount of time and money in training our new lawyers, and when we lose even one of them its a huge setback. We want all of our attorneys to progress to partnership and succeed, but despite our best efforts some decide to leave for a variety of personal reasons. I certainly don’t believe that the raw percentages of women in any firm is necessarily reflective of that firm’s culture in a vacuum, and those numbers fluctuate from year to year. K&M does appear to be an outlier however, for whatever reason.

  57. “I certainly don’t believe that the raw percentages of women in any firm is necessarily reflective of that firm’s culture in a vacuum, and those numbers fluctuate from year to year.”

    I agree with that, but it does raise a red flag, doesn’t it? Especially when it’s so far out of the mainstream.

  58. All firms struggle to retain women (and men!) – the attrition rate in big law firms is super high, and it’s designed that way – you need an army of first, second, third year associates to do all of the grunt work. The on-off ramp for women coming back to work after having a baby is a huge problem at my firm, regardless of religion, and I get that Mormon culture may make things a bit harder. But having 89 male shareholders and only 4 female shareholders? There’s no way that a firm this size with a culture that *actually* seeks to promote women is only going to find FOUR women up to the job.

  59. I totally agree that Kirton & McConkie is out of the norm. They have had a very hard time retaining women for years now, and its not hard to figure out why. Moreover, I happen to know that several of the four partners on their website are not really working much at all. But they really only have one client and that client is managed by ALL men so its not really a mystery.

  60. Little Sister says:

    I’m a 7th year female associate at a big law firm. If I have to hear one more time from law partners – including the many ones on this thread – that “we’re doing EVERYTHING we can to support female associates, but gosh darn it, they’re just choosing not to make the sacrifice to become a partner,” I’m going to throw something against a wall. No. No, no, no, no. If you don’t have women partners, you’re not doing “everything you can” to keep female associates.

  61. I have a question here. I don’t mean for it to be snarky. I am having a hard time understanding why it is important to clients to have a firm that is diverse. I am a physician working in an academic setting. If are our patients are our “clients” then I can tell you that they don’t demand diversity. They demand good care! Now if our clients are our credentialing powers, then diversity is very important. So, why would some random client have any interest in the diversity of the firm taking their case. Again, I am not being snarky (always a risk on blogs like this,) I am just trying to understand why clients exert pressure for more diversity.

  62. Ryan Mullen says:

    Thank you, Little Sister. I’m not a lawyer, but my own profession (engineering) also suffers from the Good Ol’ Boy mentality and that excuse rings hollow every time I hear it.

  63. Carolyn says:

    I just left a biglaw firm that got significant pressure from clients to have more women on teams. The firm itself tried, somewhat, to keep women — it allowed flexible schedules and slower tracked decisions for children, etc. It was by no means following best market practices but it’s female partnership rate was around 20% there were many women in management and we had the first NAMED female partner of the BigLaw world.

    As for the government issue — when I was in government we used to joke that federal agencies were where women went to breed. The great health insurance and more predictable schedules and family friendly flex policies, respectable salaries, while still having challenging work, meant women biglaw lawyers fled to those jobs.

    In other words — law firms should be perfectly capable of keeping more women if they tried to adopt comparable policies.

    Kirton McConkie hasn’t. Like 4% goes from “not trying” to “willfully refusing to try.”

  64. One of the anons says:

    As to sch’s question about why clients want diversity in law firms. The clients we’re talking about include companies and government agencies that have bought in to the advantages of diversity in their own workforces. These clients often have in-house legal departments that are staffed with diversity targets in mind. As they see it, demanding diversity from outside legal counsel, with whom they often work closely, is a natural extension of the corporate commitment to diversity.

    The comparison to medicine is interesting. Personally, diversity matters to me in picking medical care when I’m fortunate enough to be picky. I have found that a medical practice with a diverse panel of doctors and other caregivers is often more responsive to me as a patient. That’s not the only criterion that matters, of course, but it’s really quite important to me.

  65. Wondering says:

    sch — If I, as a patient or parent of a patient, noticed that a large medical practice had little to no ethnic or gender diversity, I would be very concerned that there was some weird dynamic happening in the management of the practice, and yes, I would be very concerned that it would compromise the quality of care. And I say this as someone who is familiar with the practice of medicine, the training of nurses and doctors, and the working structure of medical practices and academic hospitals.

  66. sch,

    If are our patients are our “clients” then I can tell you that they don’t demand diversity. They demand good care!

    A couple thoughts. The first is, like One of the anons said, I suspect that patients do in fact look for diversity. You may not see it as much, if you operate roughly solo. But I know who have deliberately looked for a practice with women OBGYNs; my kids’ pediatrician recommended my daughter shift to a woman in his practice when she hit a certain age. They may not mention it to you, and it’s almost certainly not their sole criterion, but I suspect a not-insignificant portion of patients (at least of patients who aren’t white men) do care.

    Second, your comment places diversity in tension with good care. They’re not. There’s plenty of research that companies with diverse boards of directors produce better outcomes for their companies. I suspect the same can even be said for medicine, at least where doctors are working in teams. Going into the research and the reasons would have made this already-long post even longer and more unwieldy, so I took for granted that diversity creates benefits in excess of just checking the diversity box, but it’s important to point out that not only is diversity not in conflict with the best legal, medical, or business advice possible, but the two are supremely compatible. That is, by increasing the number of women, attorneys of color, and LGBT attorneys who are partners/shareholders, a law firm is likely to provide objectively better legal advice.

  67. Certainly I didn’t mean to put diversity in tension with good care. My group of 26 physicians is about half female (not surprising in an academic pediatric subspecialty). We have diversity in terms of race, but not as much as I would like, and we also have some diversity in sexual orientation, although none of us know exactly how much diversity we may or may not have there. We discuss salaries, and women’s vs. men’s experiences, And we have some patients who specifically ask for a man or woman physician. Such requests are not difficult for our group to accommodate.

    I understand and support the idea that diversity is a worthwhile goal (and I am ashamed but not surprised that it is lacking in firms dominated by LDS lawyers.) Almost every week at our weekly rounds I keep a count of men/women. I have long been interested in this idea of diversity and I am a bit taken back that my post appeared to suggest that I didn’t find it to be worthwhile. It is. My impression, though, is that our drive for diversity is self driven and much less client/patient driven. I am not saying that patients never mention it. I was surprised at the high profile need of clients to have diversity.

  68. Kristine says:

    “So, why would some random client have any interest in the diversity of the firm taking their case.”

    For exactly the same reason a smart patient would want a diverse medical practice–because sometimes doctors are a lot better at listening to/caring for patients who look like them. The research is pretty clear that a lack of diversity can hurt patients, regardless of doctors’ general level of qualification.

  69. There’s another perspective that should be at least voiced. The law firm can do a lot to hire more women, to adopt family friendly policies, to promote more women. There’s no excuse (that I would accept) for not doing so. However, that works up to the point of women becoming partners. From that point on, while there are policies and practices that can make a partner more or less successful–successful in a business sense–in the way big law firms practice law today there is relatively little the firm can do to help the partner’s work-life balance. To a large extent clients call the shots. There may have been a time when associates’ lives were hell and partners sat back and raked it in. But in all of my decades of practice in big law firms, the partners work harder under more pressure and less control of their lives than the associates. And always subject to the clients’ preferences. The partners are not employees with job security. They are effectively separate individual businesses that rise or fall on clients. Successful partners in today’s big law are richly compensated. But it’s in money, not time or control.

    Capable associates are very aware of the partner life–the benefits and the costs. I have had more than one experience with excellent associates (for this I’m thinking of three women, one Mormon and two not Mormon) who became a partner and left, or who were a sure bet for partnership but left a year or two early. That’s not about “making partner.” That’s about “being a partner.”

  70. JD speaks as someone who knows, or at least thinks that s/he knows. So I took my educational degrees and deconstructed the comment, scanning for truth, or the lack thereof. Note the fascinating structure of the five-sentence paragraph. The first sentence is mostly true. Subtract the word “many,” and I’d say it’s 90 percent true. Sentences two and three are tolerably true, but starting to slip. This part is important: I advise boots to wade through sentence four—knee-length and moisture resistant. Keep your boots on for sentence five, and plug your nose—or better yet, wear a gas mask, because the odor is utterly intolerable—dangerously so. From: Someone who also “knows.”

  71. My company is led by men. The lawyers are men and the accountants are women.

    Should I fire some of our lawyers and some of our accountants to even out the mix?

  72. Rgb that sounds like a crappy place to work. I’m sorry you have to work there.

  73. Does anyone happen to have any insider insight into whether there might be tasks that the church as a client has actually said should only be serviced by male outside counsel? For example, is that hotline that bishops and stake presidents can call about dicey matters staffed by KM? Would the church allow a woman to staff that hotline?

    I think it’s more than obvious that the church and church culture de facto discourage female partners at KM, but is it possible that they also actually de jure do so as well for at least some of the work?

  74. Suzanne Lucas says:

    JKC, you’re right. Brain slip–retaliation, not interference. Sorry about that!

    Regardless, illegal, and she should have called them on that.

  75. Aussie Mormon says:

    KM has about 300% more total partners than S&W, and 28% more than RQ&N.
    Just that on its own, compared to the small numbers involved means that a single M->F parter will have less of an effect. For example if S&W was 6/25, that’d be an increase of 4%, whereas if KM went to 5/93 it’d only be a 1% increase.

    Even just bringing KM up to the 19% national average would requiring hiring the entire female partnerships of RQ&N+H&H (well one less than that total) if you’re not going to get rid of the old ones.

    In an area with a low number of female law grads (38% in Utah), a lower number of female attorneys (31% in Utah), combined with 34% of female attorneys working in law firms (nationally), you’re looking at 10% of the total attorneys as the pool to pull these from (assuming local hirings, numbers based on the study linked in the original post). Then the potential causes that people above have already mentioned can come in to play.
    KM is still lower than it should be, but numbers can give false impressions.

  76. Aussie Mormon says:

    “These” in the last paragraph being female partners.

  77. Aussie Mormon says:

    I’ll note, that I’m in the engineering field, so I see the same thing happening, essentially for similar reasons to I’ve mentioned above.

  78. Well to be fair, Suzanne, if your job is compliance rather than litigation, the difference between retaliation and interference isn’t that important because they’re equally risky.

    But yeah, anyone who’s been subjected to different treatment than her colleagues because she had a pregnancy should speak with an employment lawyer.

  79. Lots of lawyers around here! Male east coast biglaw alum here. Proud that a couple of the female attorneys I mentored have since made partner. However, they had to choose between that job and family and they have chosen the job. Which is fine. They are terrific people living remarkable lives. As for me, after 7 years of never seeing my own kids, and observing daily what partnership at the firm seemed to do to marriages and families, I bailed to an in-house career. Frankly, the pay is not much worse (sure, I will not likely achieve my goals of membership at Winged Foot and Augusta, but whatever) and I could not possibly place a dollar amount on the hours of my life I got back, in family time and fulfilling charity/church service.

    I did two summers at what was then the largest SLC firm (not listed above). Glad I didn’t go back. Weird market. KM even weirder . . .

  80. Anon Anon says:

    How many law firms had an Apostle visit and offer a dedicatory prayer at the grand opening of their new headquarters? Obviously KM moved into a Church owned property but that just further speaks to the depth of the relationship between firm and client. Correlation? [Pun intended] Quite possibly to the trend.


  81. Sam, your conclusion seems to be that if the church influenced them enough, the numbers would change. Don’t you think they HAVE influenced them, even if they don’t right out and say it? I don’t see a group of 15 men who believe God has said that men should be in charge are going to ask their law firm to hire more women.

  82. Jeremy, my impression is, the church has started to recognize the importance of women’s contributions to leadership. It hasn’t moved as quickly or as far as I’d prefer, but there has been an emphasis, at least at the top, on shifting local governance to councils, and to listening to women’s voices at those councils. (The elimination of PEC may be another step in that direction.) If it recognizes the value to local congregations of a more-diverse governing body, it would make sense that it would also recognize that value for its outside counsel. So you may be right—historically, the church may have not considered, or even rejected, the importance of diversity. But it seems to me that it is coming around to that internally, and I see no reason why it wouldn’t also externally.

  83. John Mansfield says:

    As one quite oblivious to that world, I was surprised that the largest firms in Salt Lake City would be considered “biglaw” and have the issues of obsessive long hours described by other commenters, same as to be found in Chicago or LA. Which would be the largest city west of Denver without a biglaw firm? Are there biglaw firms in Montana and Wyoming? Biglaw may be a broader category than what I imagined.

  84. Paul Ritchey says:

    Anyone done a gender makeup comparison of BYU L. Rev. (and particularly the managing board) vs. others? To the extent that academic achievement can approximate/predict law firm achievement (Skeptical? Me too.), it would be interesting to see if there’s a statistically significant difference there. If so, it makes KM’s Mormon connections seem a likely explanation.

  85. I own a fairly large manufacturing engineering company. I have about 50 employees. Maybe 35 total kids. People with children under a certain age say 14 or so have a really hard time working more than 40 hours a week. The littles need time from mom and dad. I can offer up to 15 extra hours a week sometimes to employees. People with kids under 14 or so rarely take me up on this. Its always either childless folks or kids with older kids working on saturday. The women with littles are really not interested in staying late or coming on saturday.

    The same thing plays out in big law. Women who want or have children bail. There is more to life then work.

  86. To me its obvious why a large almost entirely lds law firm would be almost all male. Been in our culture or read the family proc?

  87. a lawyer says:

    I don’t know the stats at BYU, but other law schools have issues with recognizing academic achievement for women. Harvard has a particular problem: http://hlrecord.org/2016/04/gender-disparities-at-hls/

    One of the issues is, of course, that getting the job at the fancy law firm is directly linked to grades/being on law review/other academic achievements in law school (many elite law firms have specific grade cutoffs). So to the extent that the law school suppresses female achievement, it’s going to carry over into the law firm world.

    Of course, KM’s issue *isn’t* getting female associates in the door – if they’re at 43% of the associate population, it isn’t about hiring them, or whether they had a more difficult time at BYU. Something is happening at KM that’s making their numbers way worse than other big firms in SLC.

  88. a lawyer says:

    (But the BYU Law Review’s current editorial board appears to have 5 women and 15 men, so for a school that’s 40% female, having only 25% of the law review board be female is…not great)

  89. Bbell, I’m pretty sure everybody here agrees with you that being partner at a law firm is a hard, time-consuming gig. And, for reasons both obvious and not-so-obvious, there are fewer women doing it nationwide than men.

    But this post isn’t about that—while it’s significant, it’s not particular to Mormonism, and we’re not unilaterally going to change it. This post merely points out that the number of women shareholders at KM is significantly lower than the number at several peer law firms in the exact same city, firms that provide the same services and recruit from the same pool. I would be shocked if the other firms’ Salt Lake offices weren’t, like KM, primarily (or, at the very least, significantly) Mormon. The demographics may differ a little, but I doubt they differ that much

    So the fact that shareholder is a tough gig anyway, on top of the fact that there is cultural and perhaps religious discouragement of women doing the work necessary to make shareholder, means that KM is going to have to put that much more work in to retain women attorneys and to promote them. Diversity isn’t just going to fall into their laps. It will take sustained work, and that work would be buoyed if they had both internal and client pressure to make it happen. But diversity will allow them to provide their clients with better advice.

  90. Sam. I really suspect that this has an easy explanantion. Mormon culture values high earning dads with sahm and 3 to 6 kids. A law firm that works for the church would be almost exclusively made up of the type of lds men that have sahm and 3 to 6 kids. They are also probably also bishops and sp type people. If we truly appreciate diversity there would be roomfor a boutique firm like this.

  91. Jack Hughes says:

    Good analysis, Sam. Many of us non-lawyers are by default skeptical or distrusting of lawyers and the legal profession in general. This post and subsequent discussion doesn’t exactly improve that perception, but it certainly sheds light on a glaring problem I wasn’t even aware of. Thank you.

    Do dentists next!

  92. Anon Anon says:

    Could one of the permas knock my comment out of moderation please?

  93. “Mormon culture values high earning dad and sahm and 3 to 6 kids.”

    ohhhhhkayyyyyy. we should definitely just keep it that way even though probably only 1% of the body of the church is made up of that demographic. nothing to see here at all, folks.

  94. John Mansfield says:

    As a recalibration of what 1% means, if that demographic were only 1% of the church, then it would be uncommon for there to be more than one such family in a ward.

  95. I mean, 1% may not be the right number, sure, but with 16 million members, you’re looking at 1% = 160,000 members. If i’m using the lazy 60% Mormon estimate for Utah and it’s 3 million person population, I’d estimate that Utah around 180,000 members alone. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that 20,000 of those members do not belong to high earning dad+sahm+3-6 kid families. Sure, that doesn’t account for the rest of the jello belt or the rest of the country, but your comment wants people to presume that Mandy is unreasonable if their ward doesn’t fit that statistically, and that’s a bit too pat a way to respond.
    Furthermore, Mandy may be be focusing on the “high earning” portion of this demographic in a specific way that quite easily would limit its prevalence in the church, even if plenty of members qualify under the rest of the provisions (i.e. married, sahm, 3-6 kids).

  96. i.e. your comment presumes an even or mostly even distribution of that 1%, and I would argue that is emphatically unlikely in a global church. The church’s demographics differ substantially between Utah and the United States, and between the United States and the rest of the world.

  97. The ward I grew up in was a pretty standard middle class Utah ward. Pretty sure only one or two people made six figures, at most. The mostly-LDS neighborhood I live in right now–I doubt anyone does. A mostly-LDS McMansion neighborhood not too far away has several six-figure incomes, but most of them either don’t have kids at home or have a spouse who works so that they can afford the McMansion.

    Take into consideration the huge number of members in Latin America, the Pacific Islands, etc. and it’s safe to say the vast majority of members of the church are not part of a family with a high earning dad and a sahm with 3-6 kids.

    Unfortunately, our society has become so economically segregated that those who make six figures sometimes forget about the poor and middle class. Rich attorneys, doctors, and dentists are the exception, not the rule.

  98. Typical lds family with a law degree in the utah would be that Dad with the big paycheck and the sahm mom with 3-6 kids. Thats why this boutique law firm looks like this demographically.

  99. Safe to say that this law firm is pulling right out if that demo.

  100. I recall reading the Handbook change (sometimes referred to as POX) when it first came out. My very first thought after reading it was about single mothers, raising children on their own, whose ex-husbands were living in a gay relationship. According to the original language (since amended) those children would not be eligible for baptism. Even if they never lived with their father.

    Rumor is that KM was involved with writing that section.

    I’m pretty certain a woman, or even a man with any significant experience with divorce and/or custody law, didn’t approve that language.

    Diversity matters. Even at KM.

  101. “Typical lds family with a law degree in the utah” – this speculation sounds more true of 10-20 years ago rather than younger families right now, but I honestly don’t have the data to back me up on lawyer families in particular. What I do know is that while Utah still maintains a higher average fertility rate than the rest of the country, it has an average of a little over 3 people per household (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/UT). Given that the US population as a whole trends to having fewer children than previous generations, and that higher education shows a general negative correlation with number of children born, and that women are getting more professional degrees, I would mark this estimate as likely outdated.

  102. One of the anons says:

    So many problems with Bbell’s comments when he basically ignores the entire conversation that preceded. But there’s one thing I can’t let go. KM is not a “boutique firm.” It describes itself as a full-service commercial law firm, and it has well over a hundred lawyers. Bbell’s fantasy seems to be that a small mom-and-pop legal shop (minus the moms) should get a pass for its old-time misogyny because it’s just a minnow and we should make room for a few misogynist minnows. It ain’t so.

  103. I’m going to yes-and One of the anons – “we should make room for a few misogynist minnows” – per one of Bbell’s earlier comments, true diversity demands misogynist minnows.

  104. Bbell’s 10:02 am comment is, in a nutshell, why I am glad I don’t live in Utah. Where I live Mormon culture values, well, everyone . . .

  105. Sam said: “[T]here has been an emphasis, at least at the top, on shifting local governance to councils, and to listening to women’s voices at those councils.”

    I want to amplify this. For eight years, the handbook has said this about ward council: “Both men and women should feel that their comments are valued as full participants. The bishop seeks input from Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary leaders in all matters considered by the ward council. The viewpoint of women is sometimes different from that of men, and it adds essential perspective to understanding and responding to members’ needs.” Handbook 2, 4.6.1. https://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/the-ward-council/4.1?lang=eng#46

    Add to that conference talks over the past 3-5 years from Elder Ballard, Elder Oaks, Elder Anderson, and others, that have specifically emphasized the importance of women voices and the fact the priesthood cannot be exercised righteously without partnering with women and listening to women’s voices.

    It remains to be seen how seriously the church at large will take this instruction, but I agree with Sam that the recent changes, encouraging parity in ward structure between Relief Society and Elders Quorum, and eliminating PEC to shift almost all ward governance to Ward Council, are calculated to push the church further in that direction.

    I don’t think it’s much of a stretch that the same principle applies to leadership and problem solving outside the church. Someone above asked why gender integration is so important in a law firm. To paraphrase the handbook, it’s because “[t]he viewpoint of women is sometimes different from that of men, and it adds essential perspective to understanding and responding to [client’s] needs.” I’m repeating myself, but a large firm that deprives itself of women’s voices while the rest of the industry continues to increasingly incorporate women’s voices will be unable to consistently provide as good representation to its clients as other firms.

    I don’t think it’s at all crazy to think that it’s in the church’s interest to want legal representation that incorporates women’s voices, particularly not while it is incrementally, but increasingly, recognizing the necessity of women’s voices in its own leadership.

  106. My summing up:
    From the OP and a number of comments (including mine) it seems obvious that KM’s remarkable shortfall in female partners is related to its primary client.
    In legal matters I have heard the Church described in very negative terms [edit to remove some of those terms and keep this out of the “anonymous” stack] amounting to stereotypically aggressive male patterns.
    Lawyers and friends (and some who are both) of my acquaintance think that is a problem.
    I imagine that many qualified women would not like to be part of that system.
    I believe the Church would be better off, overall, in the long run, if more qualified women were part of the system and helped change, including just by being themselves.

  107. There is nothing more entertaining than listening to golden handcuffed lawyers complain about their golden handcuffs.

  108. Not a lawyer, but I am a woman in a field with some similar dynamics. Becoming a partner requires connections. It doesn’t matter how smart you are and how hard you’re willing to work, you have to be mentored and networked to get to the top. I suspect that may be especially true in a relatively small and somewhat insular professional community like Utah. The mentoring/networking issue is a serious challenge in a culture that worries that if you have a professional work lunch with a colleague, you might be displaying “the appearance of evil” (actual thing that professional colleagues have said to me multiple times).* So aside from long hours and childcare and all the things people love to blame for the lack of women at the top, there is also the good, old fashioned boys club.

    Many of the boys in the old boys club don’t intend to contribute to the problem. They would never dream of harassing a woman at work. They pride themselves on how courteous and polite they are to their female colleagues. They see themselves as the good guys. But the absence of being terrible doesn’t mean you’re not still part of the problem. If you’re not willing to fully invest in women’s careers and proactively bring them into the inner circle, you’re part of the problem.

    *I like to challenge men to the following thought experiment: imagine that everyone was so homophobic that any professional connection you had with a man was seen as suspect and you could only professionally connect in any meaningful way with women. Who would you turn to for professional advice? Who would you talk with to understand the history behind why a specific person in the organization reacted in a certain way? Who would know you well enough to put in a good word for you? Who could help you expand your network? Who could you confidentially chat with while you navigate a tricky situation? Who would you go to lunch with? Would that put a damper on your career?

  109. Suzanne Lucas says:

    JKC, it used to surprised me when a law firm would violate easy-peasy employment law. (Complex laws, I get–and employment law is very complex). But, I see it so often that I have to assume that in many cases (Not accusing KM of anything, just speaking generally) lawyers assume that they can take the risk because their employees won’t sue them.

    It’s a huge problem.

  110. And not just law firms, either, Suzanne. Sometimes employers break the law out of ignorance or recklessness, but often, especially with large employers (or employers that are aware of the risks, like law firms), it’s a calculated risk.

  111. Suzanne Lucas says:

    JKC, undoubtedly. I just see it a lot more in law firms than in any other industry.

  112. Chadwick says:

    Big4 accounting perspective here:

    My Firm craves diversity. Yet some industries just don’t support it. Real estate and gaming come to mind. Banking used to be that way but is changing somewhat. The only women who succeed as partners in these spaces have to act like men in order to get respect. And that can often backfire anyway.

    So while my Firm fully supports gender equality, it does often gently steer women away from these hostile industries, for the sake of these women’s ultimate success. It has learned by sad experience that putting women in these roles as executives usually ends in total frustration.

    The church strikes me as fitting in this industy. We have on record men who are afraid to have a business lunch in a crowded restaurant with a woman, for example. So given KM’s industry, it just fits. Here’s hoping this will change, even if only slowly.

  113. “…it does often gently steer women away from these hostile industries, for the sake of these women’s ultimate success. It has learned by sad experience that putting women in these roles as executives usually ends in total frustration.”

    A moment of silence for this man who has made it to adulthood with the capacity to write something with such cheerful and truly dazzling lack of awareness of its condescension.

  114. Chadwick says:

    KLN: I apologize if my words are unkind.

    But sincere question: What should my Firm do? If we want women to succeed, and certain clients are not interested in respecting a female leader, I’m genuinely curious. If the church was my accounting client, and I know the church will not respect the role of female partner, what can be done? My Firm from time to time has re-directed a career path to an area where a female partner can be respected by the client base. Do you believe that was incorrect?

  115. Maybe let women decide for themselves whether they want to pursue a career working with those problematic clients instead of being shut out from it?

  116. Chadwick: I apologize if you have difficulty reading, as I nowhere used the word unkind. I said you were guilty of condescension. It is quite apparent that you consider such condescension kindness. In addition to the lack of self awareness in your first comment, it is unfortunate that you have achieved the education level you have without learning that condescension and a belief of one’s own kindness are actually quite compatible.

    “My Firm [a curious use of capitalization, chap] from time to time has re-directed a career path to an area where a female partner can be respected by the client base. Do you believe that was incorrect?”
    Laying aside your peculiar desire to run the decisions of your firm by me in particular, yes, I do. If a woman is qualified, let her do the job. If she doesn’t want to deal with the people who don’t think she’s qualified, more power to her, but as JKC says, that’s her time and patience on the line, and thus it should be her choice.

  117. JKC,

    I definitely like where you’re going with your comment. But I can’t help but feel bemused about this:

    “Add to that conference talks over the past 3-5 years from Elder Ballard, Elder Oaks, Elder Anderson, and others, that have specifically emphasized the importance of women voices and the fact the priesthood cannot be exercised righteously without partnering with women and listening to women’s voices.”

    Like I’m glad they’re giving those talks, but they might be more convincing if there were more than 0.5 women speakers per session in the conference sessions in which they’re saying listening to women’s voices is a good idea. (The pattern is 2 female speakers total in the 4 general sessions of conference.) I mean…..

  118. I hear you, Cynthia.

  119. Kristine says:

    “If the church was my accounting client, and I know the church will not respect the role of female partner, what can be done?”

    Insist. It is 2018. Accounting firms have capable women in senior positions.The Church and any other clients have to adjust to modernity. If they won’t, your firm should be willing to find clients that accept women’s basic humanity.

    Mormonism has managed to accommodate lots of societal change and it can handle working with professional women. (I can’t believe this really needs to be said.)

  120. Workingspouse says:

    For what it’s worth, my wife is a senior executive in a commercial real estate firm. Last year the Church sent her an unsolicited and confidential request to consider working for the Church in a senior level position in its commercial real estate division, in a very attractive position managing the portfolio. The person(s) who extended the offer know her gender and that was not an issue during the conversations around the position. The problems turned out to be (1) required relocation to SLC and (2) starting salary was more than a 50% pay cut. Neither of those problems were gender related. I understand Utah based employers can offer generally lower salaries b/c lots of Utah ex-pats will take less money to return to Utah-regardless of gender. In any event, my wife’s gender was not an issue during her conversations with various Church people about the position. She said they were a little surprised at her salary demand but I doubt that was gender related, they were probably unfamiliar with East Coast salaries for senior people in her industry or not used to hearing no from people who want to work for the Church or relocate to SLC. Had it gone far enough she would have interviewed with a GA but the salary and SLC requirement ended the pleasant and professional negotiations before that final step. I don’t know what to extrapolate from the experience beyond the fact the Church tried to recruit a woman for one of its senior level positions managing its (not insignificant) commercial real estate portfolio.

  121. it's a series of tubes says:
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