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1 Industry Pays Certain Women In-House Counsel
More Than Men

Phillip Bantz  | Law.com - February 5, 2020


While the gender pay gap for in-house counsel stubbornly persists, something different—and, perhaps, encouraging—appears to be happening within the health care and life sciences realms.

Women at the managing counsel level for health care firms are earning 15% more than men. In life sciences, male managing counsel are paid just 2% more than women, according to a new report from legal recruitment firm BarkerGilmore.

“For the first time in any industry, we’re seeing females at the managing counsel level outearn their male counterparts,” said Brittney McDonough, managing director and chairwoman of health care and life sciences at BarkerGilmore.

“Health care has always predominantly been a more women-led industry and I think it comes down to education,” she added. “We often see women who get into the clinical side of medicine and may come up through nursing and decide to get their J.D. They’re arguably a bit further ahead for opportunities in that field.”

But as women climb the corporate ladder, their pay appears to drop when compared with men at the top levels of legal departments. Female general counsel in the health care and life sciences sectors are paid 13% and 21% less than their male counterparts, respectively, according to BarkerGilmore’s report.

The median total pay for women GCs in life sciences was $560,500, compared with $713,500 for men. In the health care industry, the GC gender pay gap was $401,500 to $464,000.

Overall, life sciences firms are paying women in-house counsel nearly 20% less than men while the gender pay gap is 13% at health care companies, according to the study.

The report also noted that the average base salary for in-house lawyers in both industries has increased by about 4%.

Still, the median pay for women in-house counsel across all positions in life sciences was $340,000, compared with $420,000 for men. In health care, the median pay for women was $285,000 to the men’s $328,250.

Unfortunately, the gender pay disparity findings echo gaps seen throughout the in-house world in all industries, where the differences range from 15% to more than 18%, depending on the survey.

The latest findings are from BarkerGilmore’s larger in-house compensation survey in 2019 of more than 2,000 U.S.-based in-house lawyers, 20% of whom work in health care or life sciences. Some other noteworthy takeaways include:

  • The highest-paying in-house practice areas in health care are compliance and insurance. In life sciences, intellectual property expertise brings the biggest paychecks.
  • In-house lawyers for health care firms are a bit restless and want better pay: 42% said they will likely embark on a compensation-related job hunt within the next year, compared with 31% of life sciences lawyers.
  • Interestingly, though, life sciences lawyers reported that they’re getting smaller raises, reporting that their base salaries increased by 4% in 2018, compared with 5.2% the previous year.
  • As for those health care lawyers who are ready for a higher-paying job? They said their salaries went up 4.4% in 2018, compared with 4% the previous year.

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