Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Women account for a third of the nation's lawyers and doctors, a major shift from a generation ago when those professions were occupied almost exclusively by men, new Census figures show. Women's share of jobs in the legal and medical fields climbed during the past decade even as their share of the overall workforce stalled at slightly less than half. Women held 33.4% of legal jobs—including lawyers, judges, magistrates and other judicial workers—in 2010, up from 29.2% in 2000. The share of female physicians and surgeons increased to 32.4% from 26.8% during that time. In 1970, women were 9.7% of the nation's doctors and just 4.9% of its lawyers, according to Census data.
Women's gains in these fields follow the rise in their professional school enrollments over time. Harvard Law School, for example, was closed to women until 1950, and the Washington and Lee University School of Law was the last U.S. law school to open its admissions to women in 1972, according to research by Hannah Brenner and Renee Newman Knake of Michigan State University's College of Law [Rethinking Gender Equality in the Legal Profession's Pipeline to Power: A Study on Media Coverage of Supreme Court Nominees, 84 Temple L. Rev. 325 (2012)]. Today, women graduate from law school in roughly the same numbers as men. They make up just under half—45.4%—of medical residents and fellows, or medical-school graduates in training, according to the American Medical Association.