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Assessing the Gender Gap in eDiscovery

Jan 24, 2020

Everyone can agree that women have made significant inroads in every profession, but it is also clear there is still much work to be done, especially in positions traditionally held by men. eDiscovery is a niche sector that combines two of the most male-dominated fields – legal and technology. Only 20 percent of workers in the technology industry are women. In the legal industry, while 46% of associates in private practice are women, only 24% are partners and 19% equity partners. I have worked on teams where the ratio of women to men was not only unequal but overwhelmingly so. This theme seems almost universal when I have talked with other women about their professional experiences.

I have worked in the eDiscovery space for 15 years and have been associated with the non-profit organization Women in eDiscovery for close to 6 years. I served two two-year terms on both the San Diego and San Francisco Chapter boards. The organization is dear to my heart. One of my closest friends, the Southwest Regional Director of WiE, and I met at a monthly meeting and I later became a bridesmaid in her wedding. Time and again I have seen the organization connect women to form coalitions and empower us to advance our careers. While WiE goes the extra mile to make our field more inclusive, it should not be one of the only groups to advance the cause. There are systemic problems that need to be corrected before women achieve parity with men in the industry.

A CDS Director asked me to write an article on gender-based issues in eDiscovery. He encouraged me to write about what interests me and what I think is important. I struggled with this task because I quickly realized it is impossible to author one piece about gender imbalance. As I started my research, I began to ask several complicated and controversial questions that deserve to be unpacked on their own. Thus, the idea of creating a series  was born from what was going to be a single article.

CDS will publish regular articles discussing women in the eDiscovery industry.  The focus will be on issues related to gender imbalance, unfair organizational practices, stereotypes, gender-related cultural expectations and workspace obstacles, and how these problems can be challenged and overcome. Each article will feature a female colleague in the eDiscovery space. The goal of the series is to raise awareness of the gender disparity within the legal technology sector by addressing divisive issues.

Here are some of the questions we plan to cover in future articles:

  1. Who should be held responsible for the gender gap in eDiscovery? How do individuals, social norms and traditional gender roles, organizational policies and culture, and other factors contribute to the gap?
  2. What positions do women comprise in eDiscovery and why are women under-represented in leadership roles?
  3. What current initiatives encourage women to pursue careers in eDiscovery and what else can be done?
  4. How have women gained a stronger presence in eDiscovery over the last 20 years and does that give us foresight into the future?
  5. Should companies alter their hiring practices to be more gender inclusive?
  6. How do women benefit business, such as by building more diverse teams, and decreasing design bias when servicing clients’ needs? Do female founders produce greater investment returns?

These are complex questions that we hope to explore with help from others in the industry. What issues would you like to see covered in our series? Please send me your comments and feedback on LinkedIn and join the discussion!

About the Author

Nicole Guyer

Nicole Guyer

As Client Director at CDS, Nicole advises attorneys and ediscovery practitioners on managing electronic data through the EDRM lifecycle. She is passionate about developing sophisticated workflows and takes a hands-on consultative approach. She draws on more than a decade of eDiscovery experience to advise clients on advanced analytics and litigation support technologies to efficiently investigate data, cull data volumes and implement cost-saving solutions. Nicole has also managed large-scale document review projects and assisted with privilege reviews and privilege log creation. She is a Relativity Certified Administrator.