Firms using gender pay gap reporting to drive positive change

Mandatory gender pay gap reporting* has enabled law firms to be transparent about how they can support women solicitors in their careers.

Law Society of England and Wales President Lubna Shuja said: “There is no requirement for smaller firms to publish data, but we urge all firms to publish gender pay gap data to promote gender pay equality and remove structural barriers.

“The figures show we must continue to press ahead with initiatives and action plans that will reduce the pay gap and create lasting change in our profession.

“Women currently make up over 60% of new entrants to our profession, but only 35% of partners. A figure that has only increased 0.3% over recent years.

“Our analysis of the national gender pay gap service of some of the largest 50 UK law firms for 20212022 showed the median pay gap was 28%. Yet for most firms this did not include partner pay which would have increased the overall gender pay gap further.

“Women’s barriers to progression are further compounded by traditional male-oriented promotion structures, a lack of development opportunities due to the unfair allocation of work and the lack of support around maternity leave, return to work, flexible working and shared parental leave.”

There are, however, positive signs of progress with some firms leading the way and moving away from simply meeting the minimum reporting requirements to provide a clearer picture and way forward.

Including all partners’ pay (equity and non-equity) for increased transparency, taking action to ensure the gender diversity of newly appointed partners, and including robust narratives and detailed action plans to address the gaps identified are just some of the actions being taken by the profession to address the gender pay gap.

Lubna Shuja concluded: “We encourage firms to consider collecting additional information on disability, ethnicity, and LGBTQ+ pay gaps to provide a more comprehensive view of their organisation and allow them to address the intersectional inequalities faced by their staff.

“In this centenary year since the first women solicitors were admitted in England and Wales, we are pushing for the sector to make real, lasting change so that everyone feels valued, respected and safe in the workplace and has equal opportunities to thrive in a career they are passionate about.

“I continue to urge our members to commit to our Women in Law Pledge, which seeks to achieve gender equality in the senior ranks of the profession and amongst those with a leadership role.

“To meet our aspiration for gender balance at all levels across the legal profession, signatories publicly commit to tackling the gender pay gap and other inequalities that women solicitors continue to face today.

“Positive steps under the pledge include having a dedicated member of the senior leadership team accountable for gender diversity and inclusion, setting realistic but ambitious gender objectives, and committing to dealing with sexual harassment, workplace culture and bias.

“Our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) framework removes the sense of urgency to ‘do something’ about D&I and avoids the reactive, short-lived activity which often lacks impact. It is a proactive and systematic roadmap approach to D&I for the profession, including small firms and in-house.

“Each of the three simple steps has tangible actions and regular checkpoints to monitor progress. And, if firms are already taking action, it will help them review and identify any gaps.

“In 1922, the first four women opened many doors for future women solicitors. We must use their determination and fortitude to push for gender parity in a diverse and inclusive profession that represents the society it serves.”

Notes to editors

* The introduction of government reporting requirements on gender pay gap in 2017 meant that all businesses with at least 250 employees in England, Wales and Scotland must publish yearly data comparing the basic pay and bonus payments for male and female employees.

Read our gender pay gap reporting guidance

Find out more about our D&I framework

Read about our Women in the Law Pledge

About the Law Society

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Press office contact: Naomi Jeffreys | 020 8049 3928

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