|NY Times Mar. 20, 1969|
What Else Could Explain the Low Numbers of Librarians in the C-Suite? Law librarians are among the most highly credentialed administrative staff in law firms. Most have at least one Masters Degree. They often have 2 advanced degrees, a Master’s Degree plus a JD, MBA or PhD. Law librarians have been in law firms longer than any other “non-lawyer” professional. Their positions date back to at least 1930. Information Technology folks arrived in the 1970’s and Marketing folks in the 1980’s and Professional Development folks in the 1990s. We had a 40 year lead and yet we have fallen behind in opportunities for professional advancement. The numbers of Finance, IT, Marketing and Professional Development Human Resources professionals in the “C Suite” far exceeds the number of librarians. No one can convince me that implementing the right information strategy is less critical than having the right technology, marketing, recruiting or lawyer training strategy.
At the first PLL Summit in 2010, 3 Geeks and a Law blogger, Greg Lambert raised some uncomfortable issues.. He pointed out that in the past 20 years librarians were continually at the forefront of introducing new initiatives and technologies. These innovations include providing firms with the first link to the Internet and introducing knowledge management (which by the way librarians invented in about 2000 BC), competitive intelligence and formal professional development programming. But instead of having their roles elevated, a strange thing happened… someone else was hired to lead each new initiative. Worst of all the people hired into these new roles were then elevated to the C-Level. The persistence of the pattern is too dramatic to be ignored. I am open to other explanations, but right now unconscious stereotyping and gender bias get my vote.
And now… I can’t help but wonder if during all these years when I was talking strategy and risk anyslyis, my words were drowned out by sound of a cartoon “shushing” in the Executive Director’s and Partner’s heads.
Leaning Up for the Next Generation. This is a subject no one wants to discuss. I can’t recall ever seeing an AALL program that addressed the issue of gender bias faced by our profession. The ABA and every law firm is trying to increase advancement opportunities for women lawyers to reach partnership. So why, as a profession that is about 80% female are we afraid to name the problem and begin to look for a solution. I want the next generation of information professionals to have a a shot at a seat in the C-Suite, but the first step toward recovery is admitting you even have a problem… and then call the problem by it’s right name.