While all women attorneys continue to confront obstacles in their effort to advance and succeed in the profession, this is particularly true for women attorneys of color, who face the "double bind" of both race and gender. The ABA's Commission on Women in the Profession has focused much-needed attention on the unique challenges faced by women attorneys of color through its Visible Invisibility research initiative, which was launched in 2003. Its groundbreaking 2006 study examined the experiences of women attorneys of color in law firms, and this important initiative has been continued by turning the spotlight on women of color in corporate law departments.
Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Fortune 500 Legal Departments focuses on the experiences of women attorneys, particularly women of color, in Fortune 500 corporate legal departments as they go through the four major aspects of an attorney's career: recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement. The extensive statistical data and anecdotal information obtained from more than 1,000 survey respondents, who included men and women of all races, show that, just as was the case with law firms, women attorneys of color in corporate law departments are not faring nearly as well as their white male and female and black male counterparts.
They are not afforded equal access to significant assignments, mentoring, and sponsorship opportunities; receive less compensation and fewer promotions; and have the highest rate of attrition. Indeed, this study confirms that many of the same significant inequalities and barriers that exist for women attorneys of color in law firms are also present in the corporate sector. However, the study also provides cause for optimism for women attorneys of color presently working or contemplating employment in corporate law departments, as survey respondents reported greater overall job satisfaction and work-life balance than the respondents in our 2006 survey of lawyers working in law firms.
This study is must-reading for corporations and everyone interested in promoting diversity, as it sets forth concrete and specific recommendations and strategies that should be implemented in order to ensure that women attorneys of color are provided greater opportunities to succeed.