Diversity and inclusion

Further to go to achieve international gender equality for women in the law

bates-wells-logoA new toolkit released to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021 shows there is still much further to go to achieve gender equality for women lawyers globally and gives practical advice on how to set up new gender equality initiatives.

A survey of over 300 respondents across six continents, conducted by the Law Society of England and Wales and Bates Wells for the toolkit, found that women in the law still face significant barriers to progression – including unconscious bias, unequal pay, a lack of support when speaking out about instances of sexual harassment in the workplace and the ‘double burden’ women face when juggling caring responsibilities and work commitments.

Rachel Stein, from the Brazilian Mentoring Group, who was interviewed for the toolkit, said: “When we started, there were no similar organisations… there should be a book with information about how to do this kind of thing because we took a lot of hard falls since we had no guidance. Guidance that would have made our lives so much easier. However, the mistakes we made were important, as they were all learning curves. So, don’t be afraid to make mistakes”.

The toolkit also found that while some countries have a rich and varied set of initiatives striving to achieve gender equality in the legal sector, in other jurisdictions, there were not resources for women to come together.

The focus of gender equality initiatives around the world varies according to cultural, civil and political differences. In some countries, the clear focus for women lawyers coming together was to campaign around issues such as gender-based violence or poverty, whilst in other jurisdictions, initiatives centre around career advancement and business opportunities.

These initiatives along with mentoring programmes and support for those entering the profession are key to shifting the dial on gender equality in the law. The toolkit contains advice on how to set up gender equality initiatives and organisations and gives details of existing groups across different jurisdictions.

Law Society president David Greene said: “International women’s day provides an important chance to reflect on gender equality in the profession.

“In jurisdictions across the globe, female lawyers are experiencing significant barriers to progression and are struggling to reach senior leadership roles in equal numbers to men.

“Bar associations, law firms and law societies around the world have a key role to play in encouraging their members to adopt policies which tackle gender inequality and help create a more diverse, inclusive profession globally.

“We hope our Practical Toolkit for Women in the Law will provide important insights into the barriers women around the world face in their career progression as well as practical tips on how to set up new gender equality initiatives.”

Melanie Carter, partner at Bates Wells who led the research and co-authored the report said: “It was clear from our research and analysis that in many jurisdictions amazing work is being done to support women lawyers, mostly volunteers who are passionate about gender equality.

“In some countries, the women we interviewed were working with few resources and in some cases in the face of outright hostility. Even in this situation, there are inspiring models to follow and great ideas for how to organise.

“It is our strong hope that the practical focus of this report will make it a go to resource for women lawyers who want to put together support initiatives whether that’s within a law firm, a separate organisation or as part of the local or national bar association”.

Notes to editors

For a copy of the Practical Toolkit for Women in the Law, please email Ben Davies.

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Ben Davies | 0208 049 3750

About Bates Wells

Bates Wells, founded in 1970, is a law firm that works for a wide range of public bodies, businesses, institutions, social enterprises, charities, and high-profile individuals, across a variety of sectors.

The breadth and quality of our work is acknowledged by the UK’s two independent directories, Legal 500 and Chambers UK, in 21 areas.

In 2015 Bates Wells became the first UK law firm to be awarded B Corporation (B Corp) status.

Bates Wells has over 250 staff and 38 partners, which means that we are large enough to provide a complete range of commercial legal services yet small enough to be able to provide a personal service to every client. Bates Wells was one of the first law firms in the UK to be accredited as a Living Wage employer.

Press office contact: Karen Collins | 020 7551 7639

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