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Women speak out against gender diversity quotas in law firms

8 March 2012

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Nearly half of women believe that quotas are unnecessary to achieve gender diversity in law firms, according to a recent survey. Indeed, 60 per cent disagree with the idea of quota systems.

When asked what is the biggest change law firms could make to their working practices to increase their retention of senior female talent, respondents said they needed more flexible working practices. The second greatest priority was a change in the way that performance is assessed.

Also highlighted was a desire for a formal leadership development programme, including mentoring. In addition, respondents noted the need for more gender-neutral networking opportunities.

Says Jen Cottle, an associate at Dolmans: “Introducing a quota could potentially give rise to women overtaking men who have earned a promotion or the chance to hold a more senior position within the workplace. Many women would prefer to secure a senior position solely upon merit, rather than because of the existence of a quota which had the effect of facilitating or accelerating their progression.”

“In an ideal world, both men and women should be encouraged to achieve a good professional/personal life balance and would share family and childcare responsibilities. If such a successful balance is created, then in theory there would be an equal opportunity for men and women to progress within the workplace and to develop their careers, meaning that progression into more senior positions would rest genuinely on merit and achievement.”

The international research by LexisNexis and the Law Society of England and Wales is based on responses from 1,144 individuals. Ninety per cent of respondents were female and 85 per cent were from an Anglo-connected country.

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