The gender pay gap for partners at big US law firms is an astounding 44%

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Partners at big US law firms make excellent money. But male partners make a lot more of it.

A recent survey of more than 2,100 lawyers at sizable American firms showed that male partners make on average $949,000 a year, compared with $659,000 a year for female partners.

What accounts for the 44% pay gap?

Jeffrey Lowe, a partner at the consulting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, which conducted the survey, told the New York Times that the men were better at landing clients. Male partners each pulled in an average of $2.5 million in business, compared to $1.7 million for female partners. The Times speculated that men are able to tap an old boys’ network of connections at other firms and in the corporate world, making it easier for them to attract clients.

In some cases, something more nefarious might be to blame. Earlier this year, the Times’ Elizabeth Olson reported on a number of lawsuits brought by female lawyers against their firms alleging patterns of discrimination in pay and treatment.

Whatever the source, the disparity in pay is stark, and much wider than the overall gender pay gap, which various sources peg at somewhere between 5% and 20%.

If there’s good news, it’s that the trends are improving, if slowly. Since Major, Lindsey & Africa’s last survey in 2014, the new business brought in by women soared 40%, versus 18% for men, and women’s pay climbed 24%, compared to 22% for men, narrowing the pay gap from 2014’s 47%.