Image of Fenwick & West LLP officesA study conducted by the law firm Fenwick & West LLP found that in 2018, women comprised more than one quarter of all general counsel at large public technology companies such as Apple and Intel in the Silicon Valley 150 (SV150), and in major companies in the Standard and Poor’s 100 (S&P 100).

In its review of the study’s findings, Corporate Counsel, a publication of LawNow, reported that “S&P 100 companies were more likely to have a woman general counsel than their SV150 counterparts, 29.8 percent versus 27.2 percent, in the 2018 proxy season.”

The Fenwick & West Gender Diversity Survey assessed female representation at “the most senior levels of public technology and life sciences companies” from 1996 to 2018, including members of boards of directors and executive officers in a range of categories.

Among SV150 companies, general counsel was found to be the executive role with the highest percentage of women. Susanna McDonald, vice president and chief legal officer of the Association of Corporate Counsel, observed that “women’s prevalence in the general counsel role might be tied to their high departure rates from big law firms. When women face barriers to leadership roles at firms, they may choose to grow their careers in-house instead.”

Despite the fact that the percentages of women in executive positions cited in the report have been reached only gradually over the past twenty years, Dawn Belt, a partner at Fenwick and a co-author of the report with fellow partner David Bell, pointed out that with California’s new law requiring that companies have at least one woman on their boards by 2020, the number of women in the most senior executive positions will likely continue to increase.

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