2017 was a hugely significant year for women lawyers, who are now the majority (50.2 per cent) of practising solicitors in England and Wales.
Yet, of the 30,000 partners in private practice, only 28 per cent of partners are women, and this is clearly a situation that needs to be tackled. For this reason, women in leadership in the law is a major plank of Christina Blacklaws’ Presidential Year programme kicking off in July.
2018 is already giving us plenty of opportunities to focus our attention on the role of women in the legal profession. In January, we closed a survey focusing on barriers to women’s progression: over 7,800 people responded to it, giving us a robust evidence base to for our diversity and inclusion work going forward.
Just last month on 6 February we celebrated the centenary of (some) women acquiring the right to vote. However, the new gender pay gap reporting requirements introduced by the government show that parity has not yet been reached and lack of career progression results in few women reaching leadership positions.
The gender pay gap, flexible working and unconscious bias are just some of the key themes that our Women in Leadership in the Law programme will address. Over the next 16 months we will organise a number of roundtables to gather further insights; complete an academic literature review; and produce a toolkit to encourage women in the legal profession to take leadership roles.
2019 will mark the first 100 years of women practicing the law, since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 allowed women to enter the legal profession. We plan to mark the occasion with a major international symposium that will bring together inspirational women and men who are making significant contributions towards achieving full equality in the legal profession.
If you want to get involved with this piece of work, or simply would like to know more about it, please get in touch with Alex Storer, Diversity & Inclusion Adviser.