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Moving the Gender Equality Needle

Moving the Gender Equality Needle

What else can your company do to promote gender equality? Following International Women's Day, there is a strong call to action for accelerating gender equality: law firms that can drive meaningful change are more successful and perform better. This article will discuss five things your company can do to create an equal and inclusive workplace.

According to The Law Society, while women have made up 60% of new entrants to the solicitors' profession since 1990 and make up the majority of practising solicitors as of 2017, only 28% of partners in private practise are women. The gender pay gap in law firms is more pronounced than the national average of 9.6%, according to a 2019 study by The Times, which found that women working in the ten largest law firms, which combined made about £14 billion in revenue in 2018, are paid 43% less than their male counterparts. So, here are some steps your company can take to address this.

Close the gender pay gap
The Equality Act of 2010 requires companies to pay the same amount for the same job, but women may still be at a disadvantage regarding bonuses and performance-based pay. Be open about employee pay in your organisation, and resist the temptation to exclude the most senior and well-paid lawyers. You can set specific targets for the number or percentage of female partnerships, and you can be more proactive in defining performance and remuneration criteria so that individual compensation is not biassed.

Address unconscious bias
Unconscious biases are learned stereotypes that are automatic and unintentional, such as young children drawing pilots and firefighters as male. It can have an impact on a company's recruitment, job allocation, promotions, and decision-making. Unconscious bias training can help your employees understand how to recognise bias while also developing practical tools and a vocabulary to combat bias throughout the organisation. Other strategies include gender-blind hiring and appointing diversity and inclusion champions to raise awareness.

Make a genuine commitment to flexible working.
Firms that commit to flexible working for all employees at all levels can improve employee retention and happiness. It can also send a strong message when senior members of the firm model family-friendly practises. If you can allow your team members to work from places that are convenient for them and at times that are convenient for their lives, you will be redressing the imbalance of women being limited by parental responsibilities. Young lawyers, particularly millennials, are demanding a better work-life balance, and firms must respond if they are to retain talent.

Participate in mentoring, networking, and sponsorship programmes.
Mentoring can be extremely beneficial in assisting young lawyers to develop and achieve their goals, particularly for in-house lawyers who do not have the same support as those in law firms. Consider reverse mentoring, in which a junior team member shares their expertise with more senior employees, allowing for a fresh perspective and breaking down generational and gender stereotypes. Similarly, your company can join or create local, regional, and networking groups like Lean In Circles.

Women's success should be celebrated.
Make your successful women visible, whether as a member of the judiciary, on the firm's board, a leader in her field, or from your client base, to celebrate and promote female talent.

It is our collective responsibility to address bias and develop talent across all criteria, including gender, ethnicity, and race, in order to build and support a more equal legal industry and society.