Few lawyers see visible steps to improve gender diversity whilst six in ten are aware of a gender pay gap in their law firms.
Men are more likely to report progress on gender equality than females, according to an international survey of women in the law. The research, which was carried out by the Law Society of England and Wales, sheds light on the road to gender equality in the legal profession. Three in four men (74 per cent) reported progress on gender equality in the last five years compared to 48 per cent of women. 'While more and more women are becoming lawyers, this shift is not yet reflected at more senior levels in the profession. Our survey and a wider programme of work during my presidency in 2018-19 seek to understand progress, barriers and support remedies,' said Law Society vice president Christina Blacklaws. 'Unconscious bias in the legal profession is the most commonly identified barrier to career progression for women, while flexible working is seen as a remedy by an overwhelming 91 per cent of respondents to our survey.'
The research found the main barriers to career progression were perceived as: Unconscious bias (52 per cent) with only 11 per cent saying unconscious bias training is consistently carried out in their organisation; unacceptable work/life balance demanded to reach senior levels (49 per cent); traditional networks/routes to promotion are male orientated (46 per cent) and current resistance to flexible working practices (41 per cent). Flexible working was pinpointed as key for improving diversity, according to 91 per cent of respondents whilst only 52 per cent worked in an organisation where flexible working is in place.
Ms Blacklaws said: 'I am a passionate believer in equality. Where there is inequality, I will not flinch from tackling it. I know I’m not alone in this - justice, fairness and the rule of law are what drew most of us to the legal profession.'