8 Stats You Need to Know About the Male Female General Counsel Divide

In a major new report, Landscape of a General Counsel (GC), from LawGeex and the Association of Corporate Counsel, we uncovered a fascinating picture of the role of the General Counsel across the United States. The findings are based on analysis including 34,0000 US General Counsel on professional social network, LinkedIn, alongside comprehensive surveys, and job data.

One of the key themes, explored is the role of gender in the new GC landscape. Here are 8 Stats you need to know on the General Counsel Gender Breakdown.

1. Women make up 31% of GCs in the United States
Lora Blum, GC at SurveyMonkey set up a diversity questionnaire

In the United States, women make up 31 percent of the general counsel population, according to data from 34,000 GCs on LinkedIn. But campaigners are seeking to push this number upwards. More than 70 corporate legal departments (from American Express to Zuora) have signed up to the so-called ‘Mansfield Rule. Caren Ulrich Stacy, the CEO of Diversity Lab, promoting this initiative says if you have a slate of 10 potential hires, three need to be people of color or women. “Research shows that 30% in a candidate pool is a real tipping point,” says Stacy.  One signatory, Julie Gruber, GC at Gap, for instance, stresses the “role corporate legal departments have in driving this work.”

Being a signatory also extends the message to law firms. For instance, Lora Blum, Survey Monkey General Counsel, who signed up to the initiative, created a law firm diversity questionnaire built into SurveyMonkey’s platform to ensure law firms are complying with objectives of the company to be an inclusive workforce.

2. Men paid 39% more than female GCs
Diana Toman, GC, Compass Minerals: women have to prove themselves more

The study finds that male GCs are paid an average of 39 percent more than their female counterparts. Male general counsel on average earn an average of US$435,625 a year in the position, and women GCs, US$326,477.The implications of the lack of gender party include a stalling of career progression. Diana Toman SVP and GC at Compass Minerals, says: “Women often have to be proven in that GC role before they are entertained as a candidate against a male. I think they are more often willing to accept a small company to prove themselves and then move up, and that impacts the gender pay equity.” Mary E. Kennard American University’s Vice President and General Counsel of American University says: “I really don’t see the progress that should be made at this point in time. I’ve heard a million excuses why this guy needs to be paid more money. And I think women are reluctant to say, ‘I’ve been doing three jobs and you’ve been paying me for one. I’m not going to do that anymore. You’re going to either pay me for all three jobs or I’m leaving.’ I’m as guilty of that as anybody. We need to speak up. Ask for the pay we deserve before they give us more work to do. And be willing to walk if they don’t.”

3. Only one of the top 10 best paid General Counsel is a woman

Based on 2017 proxy filings from Fortune 1000 companies, only one the top 10 highest-paid general counsel is a women. The distinction goes to Laureen Seeger ($6.70 million), who heads the legal department at American Express.

4. Retiring Baby Boomer male GCs being replaced…mostly by more male GCs
Katherine Adams, GC of Apple. In a rare exception to the trend, she replaced Bruce Sewell who retired as general counsel

There is a  relatively high number of baby boomers (29 percent of GCs are over 55 we found in our report ). This could have been an opportunity to hire women and minorities to fill these positions. However, we analyzed 30 high-profile US companies announcing the retirement of their GC between 2017 and 2018 on PR Newswire. Of this retiring old guard, 25 out of the 30 GCs in the post were male. But when it came to bringing in a new generation to replace the retiring GCs, men still secured 22 out of the positions (grabbing 73 percent of these open positions). This included five cases where a previous female incumbent was actually replaced by a male.

The eight women chosen to replace retiring GCs in our 30 cases, nevertheless included many headline-grabbing hires including Katherine Adams at Apple, Rena Reiss at Marriott International, and Desiree Ralls-Morrison at Boston Scientific.

5. Fortune 500 Hiring of Women GCs Ramps Up
Rashida La Lande

Focusing on the elite Fortune 500, the rate of hiring women as GCs has advanced at a steady pace in the past 12 months, with 43 percent of the 46 GC job vacancies in the Fortune 500 filled by women, according to data supplied by consultancy Russell Reynolds Associates for this report. For instance, in December 2017, Rashida La Lande was appointed Global GC at the Fortune 500 company, Kraft Heinz.

6. Women Make Up 150 of Fortune 500 GCs

This pace of hiring means that women now make up 30% of all General Counsel in the Fortune 500 (the female GC population across all US companies is 31%). Though not ideal, 150 women among the 500 General Counsel roles is vastly ahead of other C-suite positions. In contrast, there are 24 women CEOs and 61 CFOs in the Fortune 500.

Karen Roberts, GC at Walmart

This is particularly important given the significance of these companies. When it comes to buying legal services, one in eight dollars spent in the United States is by a Fortune 500 legal department. For instance, they will spend a combined US$7.8 billion alone on its response to Brussels’ GDPR, equating to almost $16m for each company. Summing up the complex challenges and attraction of being a Fortune 500 legal leader, Karen Roberts, GC at Walmart, says: “We face an enormous breadth of issues around the world, with every legal issue imaginable.”

7. Women GCs LESS likely to be promoted from within

Women GCs appear to have more success in gaining a GC position by joining a new company, rather than by being promoted within the same company. Of the Fortune 500 GC positions filled in the past 12 months, a considerable 42 percent were internal hires. However, only slightly more than one in five of these promotions were given to women. This reflects either a lack of talent in the pipeline or a continuing failure to recognize and promote women candidates.

8. However, women Make up the Majority of US Law Students 

Overall, the number of qualified women is growing in comparison to men. In 2016, for the first time ever in the US, women made up the majority of US law students. Today, in the US, women make up 51.3 percent of US law students.

The complet analysis and report can be downloaded at

Check out the full 30-page report for full data, graphics interviews, and analysis on:

  • The Anatomy of a General Counsel
  • The Fortune 500 GC
  • Gender and the GC
  • GC Compensation
  • The GC Reborn: The New Skills of the General Counsel
  • The New Strategic Leader

Download here


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