In the last 24 hours, whilst pondering the current landscape for Women in Law, there have been a surprising number of breaking news stories piling into my inbox of women fighting back in the courts, taking law firms to task in huge claims over sex discrimination, race and equal pay. There have even been news stories of top tier International law firms openly admitting that they pay men considerably more per hour than women. It’s quite clear to see that never has this issue (which has been an underlying problem for decades) been so prominent in the legal sector.
Weighing up the successes, challenges and general landscape, there are many factors and considerations that arise when you begin looking at how females are currently faring in the industry overall. In recent years there have been some notable improvements which should be celebrated, but there are also clearly barriers and challenges for female employees to navigate.
Starting with the positives, 2019 marks the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act which allowed women to train as Solicitors and amazingly, nearly 100 years on, two thirds of newly qualified solicitors in 2018 were women (Law Society data has revealed). This is fantastic news. However, data also showed less than a third of Partners in private practice are female… so there is still some considerable work to be done to bring more high-flying women in at the senior level.
Some of the challenge’s women are facing include the lack of flexibility on offer in terms of working hours which has been a big issue for women looking to develop their careers, particularly post children. Although law firms have been relatively late adopters of agile working and there are still some who are yet to make moves to be more flexible, the good news is the majority are now being much more adaptive to modern day women and their commitments outside of work.
Bringing more women into senior level positions will mean more role models for junior female lawyers. Its important to build a strong network and having more females at the top will give more support and encouragement to women breaking into law.
Overall the great news is there are more talented, intelligent women than ever working in law and the women making up 2 thirds of newly qualified solicitors in 2018 are certainly trailblazing for a better, more equal future.