Lawyers say more should be done to reduce gender inequality
Research by the Next 100 Years project has found that less than half of women in the legal profession feel current measures to improve equality in the workplace are effective.
The Next 100 Years project is dedicated to achieving equality for women in law. In a press release on 13 July, it said that the legal profession’s commitment to tackling gender inequality is reflected in the fact most organisations now offer remote or hybrid working (88%) and part-time working (68%) – both measures considered to be very effective by the women surveyed.
The research suggests focusing efforts on providing more practical support and increased flexibility would see organisations make further strides. Initiatives that women believe work well but were implemented by relatively few organisations were:
• Mentoring and coaching (less than half undertake this – 46% - but 79% of respondents considered it effective)
• Flexitime (only 32% offer this but 79% consider it effective)
• Additional support for maternity returners (only 20% provide this while 72% consider it an effective approach)
• Women’s networks (39% ran these but 69% considered them effective)
While women welcomed the post-pandemic acceptance of hybrid working and considered part-time working to be an important factor in improving gender equality, fears remain about the impact such working patterns have on women’s opportunities.
Only 54% were confident that work was allocated fairly between men and women in their organisation and 20% believed it was not. Over half felt part-time working was detrimental to being given the best work and just over a third felt working from home was also a contributory factor to missing out.
Industry-wide initiatives considered to be most effective in supporting women to progress their careers were visible role models (78%), mentoring programmes (71%) and sector or specialism specific representative groups for women (50%).
When respondents were asked about the single change that would make most difference to improving equality for women in law, four themes emerged:
• The need for fair and transparent recruitment and promotion processes that reduce gender inequality;
• The need for accountability, with leadership taking responsibility for ensuring an inclusive workplace;
• Changes to working practices and support for working parents; and
• Societal change relating to gender stereotypes and the roles of men and women in and outside the workplace.
The survey was carried out using Survey Monkey during April 2023. Responses were received from 204 female legal professionals. Job roles ranged from trainees through to partners and included solicitors working in private practice and in-house as well as barristers and chartered legal executives.