What's the Proportion of Women to Men Among Contracts Professionals?

Of the 22 participants in my Geneva seminars, 14 were women (and still are, I expect!) and 8 were men.

Given the infinitesimally small sample size, I’d be bonkers to derive any conclusions from that. But I’ve noted, albeit unscientifically, that more often than not in my other public seminars the women have outnumbered the men.

And in education generally, at least in the U.S., it seems clear that women are outperforming men. (See, for example, this 2006 article in the New York Times and this piece from the National Bureau of Economic Research about how women outnumber men in American colleges.)

Given the modest imbalance I’ve noted at my seminars, I wonder whether a similar imbalance is on display among contract managers and among in-house counsel responsible for transactional matters. Do any of you have any empirical evidence on that score?

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

7 thoughts on “What's the Proportion of Women to Men Among Contracts Professionals?”

  1. Ken
    I regret that I too lack empirical data and cannot even analyze our membership data for a male / female divide. However, it is clear that both contract management and law are in principle relatively open professions which attract a strong proportion of women.

    However, there are some caveats. Without doubt, culture plays a part. In general, our audiences in the US are far more balanced than in most other countries (so your Swiss experience may be an aberration, or perhaps you are just overwhelmingly more appealing to women than to men!). I think the precise role being performed is also a source of variation. For example, the ratio of men to women tends to increase when you focus on those whose job includes extensive negotiation (and therefore regular travel and perhaps some continuing cultural prejudice and domestic challenges).

    IACCM has a large and active community of ‘women in contracting’ (I see that 3 male members have also signed up for this). We believe that contract and commercial management is an excellent career path for both men and women. Typically, each brings a differeent strength – though much of this may be due to perceptions. For example, historic research has suggested that women see themselves to be at some disadvantage when it comes to risk management and negotiation; men perceive a disadvantage in areas such as relational skills and emotional sensitivity.

    Tim Cummins

    • Tim: Thank you for putting this issue in context. As regards any preponderance of women at my seminars, that might be more a reflection of the disparity in I noted in education than it is a function of absolute numbers in the profession. Ken

  2. Ken, another small sample, but at my all-day talk on clinical trial agreements yesterday (at the Hilton Hotel, Amsterdam Airport – not quite as exotic as some of your recent speaking locations!) there were 20 attendees of whom about two-thirds were women.

    I agree with the previous comment that it depends on the precise role being performed.  I have noticed a clear majority of women on some talks but not noticed any gender bias on other other talks, and don’t recall any male-dominated talks. 

    My experience is that lawyers from “big law” firms rarely attend contract drafting talks, ie the audience is from smaller firms, in-house lawyers and in-house contract managers.  I have put this down to big law firms running their own, in-house talks.  I have also wondered whether, if you have a large team of M&A or financing lawyers working on a mega-transaction, how many of them are actually doing contract drafting.  I would be curious to know the relative number of billable hours spent on due diligence, research, transaction management and sitting in over-staffed meetings compared with drafting and revising wording.  Also, to what extent do the frontline lawyers ask their backroom know-how managers to provide suitable wording for them rather than spend time in drafting themselves?

    • Mark: I passed through Schiphol yesterday on my way home from Geneva. If I had known you were doing a seminar there, I’d have gate-crashed it!

      As regards BigLaw being underrepresented at contract-drafting seminars, I attribute that to a stew of cultural and economic factors.

      As for how much of any BigLaw lawyer’s time is spent drafting contracts, perhaps the best way to think of that is what proportion of any given bill was incurred by lawyers drafting contracts. One partner told me that time spent drafting contracts is trivial compared to the cost of having numerous lawyers involved in protracted negotiation sessions.

      But all that is a bit off topic!


      • Shame about the gate-crashing – what a coincidence!

        Sorry for going off-topic.  Although I hadn’t explained it, a small thought was lurking at the back of my mind that there may be more male than female lawyers doing transactional work at BigLaw, that I don’t tend to see these lawyers at external courses on contract drafting, and that this may affect the relative numbers of male and female attendees at such courses.  But there are too many assumptions in there for it to be more than a half-baked thought!

    • I think the disparity in M/F in contracts professionals you are seeing is compounded by the fact you are in clinical research! I am as well – its interesting when attending industry conferences dealing w/ general compliance, FDA, marketing, etc. the men far outnumber the women, but when attending events aimed at contracts professionals in clinical research it seems like women outnumber men 10:1 (I am a woman).


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