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Law has traditionally been seen as a long hours sector dominated by male partners. While that is still the case, law has seen a growing influx of female graduates and several law firms have more women at the highest employee level than men, though not at the partner level.
This affects the gender pay gap, not just with regard to earnings, but also bonuses. There has been some concern over gender pay gap reporting that some employers were not showing the true extent of their gender pay gap by choosing not to publish their figures for partners given that their pay is based on a share of the firm’s profits and is paid irregularly. There were no statutory guidelines on how to include this in the gender pay figures.
The deadline for the first gender pay gap figures closed at midnight on 4th April. Of the 10,046 employers with over 250 employees who filed figures 1,270 were in the administrative and support services activities sector which includes several law firms. Nevertheless, as there is no specific sector for law, firms are spread across sectors.
There are, of course, many different types of law firm – some deal with commercial or corporate law, others with family or criminal law, for instance. Companies may also have their own in-house legal services. The representation of women in each of these areas affects the gender pay gap as does bonus earnings and the difference between the gender make-up of fee-earning and non fee-earning workers.
Law does not tend to have a big problem with attracting women. Figures for 2017 show women account for 61% of law graduates. The main barrier to career progression comes later – the same figures show only 28% of private practice partners are female. Retention after children is a big issue as is the issue of how career paths to partner level tend to be built around the norm of linear progress and no time out.
Here are a selection of some of the headline figures*:
Many law firms have posted explanations for their pay gaps, outlining how they are addressing the issue and many have set targets (usually 30%) for senior lawyers. This includes Simmons & Simmons which talks about working with headhunters and recruitment agencies to identify opportunities to attract top female candidates to the firm, promoting internal and external networks, focusing on leadership development, mentoring and sponsorship, unconscious bias training and encouraging flexible working. Berwin Leighton Paisner has been doing a lot of work to promote take-up of Shared Parental Leave. Hogan Lovells’ report includes a list of activities, including networking groups, partnering with the 30% Club, formal and informal mentoring, unconscious bias training for all partners and senior managers and encouraging agile ways of working for all employees.
Berwin Leighton Paisner won Workingmums.co.uk’s Best for Dads Award at Workingmums.co.uk’s 2018 Top Employer Awards. Read about what they do here.
Macmillan Williams Solicitors won Workingmums.co.uk’s Overall Top Employer Award in 2014. Read about what they do here.
Sackers & Partners, a law firm for pension scheme trustees, employers, corporate investors and providers, won an award from the Top Employers Institute for its working conditions and talent development, with work life balance one of the areas cited. Read about what they do here.