About the Women of Color Research Initiative

Research Methodology

The Commission's Women of Color Research Initiative includes both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis. The quantitative segment of the study examines the prevalence of factors that support or undermine the retention and advancement of women attorneys of color. This information was obtained through a survey developed by National Opinion Research Center (NORC)--an independent research organization--with the guidance of the Commission's Research Advisory Board. The 40-question anonymous survey was e-mailed and sent via US mail to all attorney demographics (women of color, men of color, white women, and white men) across the country who had in some point of their legal careers worked in a law firm of 25 attorneys or more. The survey sampled 1347 attorneys, targeting 950 responses. The study yielded 920 responses for an overall response rate of 72.2%.

The qualitative research examined the career movements and experiences of women of color who had worked in a law firm of 25 attorneys or more. The survey results obtained in the quantitative survey were used to formulate questions for focus groups to further clarify the findings and to identify best practices that worked to enhance the professional experiences of women of color. The researcher led anonymous focus groups with 48 women of color in five cities: 11 Hispanic/Latina in Chicago, 9 African-American in New York, 9 Women of Color (biracial or multiracial) in Atlanta, 9 Native American in Washington, D.C., and 10 Asian-American in Los Angeles. All participants had worked in a law firm of 25 attorneys or more at some point in their legal careers. No more than one person came from the same law firm. The groups were also randomized to include a range of positions and years of practice experience.

The Commission on Women will implement a third research study phase which will include individual one-on-one interviews with management/hiring partner level leaders in law firms to gather explicit details on policies and processes used by law firms to address the needs of women of color.

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