Marc Tobias - Managing Director, DMJ Recruitment
As with nearly all industries, the legal profession has had a mountain to climb to properly address the issue of gender equality.
In the last few years there has been some good progress towards more equitable gender representation. In 2019, Baker McKenzie was the first law firm to set a six-year gender diversity target of 40% men, 40% women and 20% flexible (men, women or non-binary persons) by 2025. The gap between numbers of male and female partners has been narrowed with firms like Irwin Mitchell, Ropes & Gray and Withers taking the lead and having women make up 40% of equity partnerships. And as a result of the pandemic, the new trend towards hybrid and flexible working means more mothers have been able to return to private practice.
However, there is still much more to be done before the legal profession achieves gender equality across the board.
I’d like to see law firms improve on transparency. Firms such as Freshfields, Hogan Lovells and Latham & Watkins choose not to provide details of their equity partnership gender split. This is a problem because it is discouraging to many female lawyers who don’t feel like they will be able to receive equal pay and could create a lack of faith in law firm leadership.
I’d also like to see firms and their CEOs addressing the issues of gender equality, equity and unconscious bias more often and with more urgency, and either renewing commitments that have failed to come to fruition or setting new and ambitious targets as a top priority. Firms can also think of ways of addressing the issue with new inclusion strategies similar to that of Moore Barlow, where more than half of the partners are female.
And there can be no equality until the pay gap is eliminated. A Law Society analysis has found that women in the largest law firms earn a fifth less than men on average. Despite what some may try to argue, there is no justification for this and these kinds of statistics should be a thing of the past.
As a recruiter, I look forward to a time in the very near future when the issue of gender equality in law firms is a thing of the past.