You are here

'Mediocre' men 'dominate' UK law firm boardrooms

Some law firms paying ‘lip service’ to flexible working benefits, suggests Law Society president  

11 January 2013

Add comment

By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Some law firms may be promoting 'mediocre' men and losing talented women by failing to embrace flexible working practices, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, has said.

Speaking at a Law Society and Interlaw Diversity Forum event last night, she noted that an increasing number of firms have "genuinely embraced and adopted modern flexible working practices" and are consequently attracting more talented women and men with boardroom potential.

“But there remains an uncomfortable truth,” she said. “In some firms, where the opportunities for those wanting to strike a balance between high-flying work and family life are still scarce, men dominate the boardrooms. 

“Unwittingly, these firms may be losing talented women and promoting mediocre men.

“It is not enough to merely pay lip service to the benefits of flexible working. It is not acceptable to consider women who take advantage of flexible working practices as somehow lacking commitment.

“The risk is that boardrooms will be full of men, only some of whose talent warrants their senior positions.

“If career progression was based on pure merit, some male business leaders and law firm senior partners would never even have seen the paintings on the boardroom wall.

“This is disappointing for the talented women who lose out, but is also damaging to the organisations which lose what they have to offer.”

Minister for women and equalities Helen Grant added that flexible and part-time working “is crucial if we want women to stay in the workplace and will help businesses to retain talented staff”.

“We also need to encourage and support employers to put the right measures in place. But the way to do this is not through special treatment or mandatory quotas.

“The evidence shows that our voluntary approach is working; in the past six months women now represent 44 per cent of FTSE100 board appointments.

“We are taking the same approach with Think, Act, Report – a voluntary scheme that encourages companies to think about how to offer equal opportunities for women in the workplace. This approach is driving real change, with more than 1.2 million employees – 11 per cent of the eligible workforce – now working for companies who support the scheme.”

Firms including Ashurst, Eversheds and Hogan Lovells have already introduced targets for the number of women in high-level positions, while seven law firms, including magic-circle firm Linklaters, have signed up to the government’s Think, Act, Report initiative.

Categorised in:

HR Career development