Women GCs making gains at Fortune 500 companies

A change in the way women general counsel are hired could also mean more women will be leading in-house legal departments in the future

Women GCs making gains at Fortune 500 companies
Fortune 500 companies are hiring more women for general counsel roles, and a change in the way women are hired for these posts may mean more of them will be leading in-house legal departments in the future.

The largest corporates in America filled 35% of GC roles in 2016 with women candidates, a sharp increase from the 24% recorded by Russell Reynolds Associates in 2012. Furthermore, more women who fill GC posts are being hired from external positions.

Before 2014, 28% of women hired for GC roles were internal candidates and 19% came from outside the company. During the last three years, external and internal hires have equalised.

The change may be partly explained by the declining role of private practice firms as sources of GC appointees. Prior to 2014, a third or more of appointments made to these roles came from law firms. Since 2014, that number has nearly halved.

More and more candidates hired to become GC of the largest US corporations have general counsel experience. Since 2014, 91% of externally hired women have prior in-house experience and 61% had previously been general counsel.

This means that Fortune 500 companies are hiring more often from a talent pool that is increasingly made up of women lawyers who have prior in-house roles. This could accelerate the pace at which legal departments will be taken over by women GCs.

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