Tackling ‘the Thin File’ That Can Prevent a Promotion

Recently, I have worked with a number of professional services firms committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. Many offer diversity training and leadership development programs, and many support affinity groups for traditionally underrepresented groups.

However, none has been able to crack what sometimes feels like a code set in stone: significantly increased diversity at the entry level, but very little change at the top.

This divide is particularly salient in law firms. At many law schools, more women than men graduate, leading to an increase in the proportion of female lawyers in the United States from about 3 percent in 1970 to almost 40 percent today. Similarly, about one-third of law school graduates are minorities, but fewer than 10 percent of equity partners are nonwhite and fewer than 20 percent are female. These numbers have been fairly stable for a while and have even backtracked in some instances.

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