Women in law feel their gender has held them back

Most female lawyers feel that their gender has hindered their career progression, according to new research released from Laurence Simons.

The recruitment consultancy found that over 60 per cent of women working in a legal profession felt that the gender had been a barrier. However, only 16 per cent of men felt that they struggled to advance their career due to their gender.

The study looked at over 1,000 profiles of leading law firms throughout the UK and of those only 20 per cent are women. Of the top 20 law firms, only 18.6 per cent of women were partners, an increase of only 1.4 per cent over the last three years. This means that if female representation continues to increase at the current rate, it will take 64 years for gender equality to reach senior levels in law.

Clare Butler, Global Managing Director at Laurence Simons, said, “Just 20% of partners in top UK law firms are women and although this statistic must urgently be improved, the UK generally is doing poorly when it comes to senior women in industry.”

“Of course, this is no excuse for a lack of gender equality, but puts the industry in the broader business context.”

“Many of the top law firms are implementing initiatives and these now need to go beyond attracting, nurturing and retaining diverse talent. It’s also about attitudes through the educational process…By targeting all these touch points with women and girls we can start to make a difference and hopefully bring forward the date at which we can claim true equality in our UK legal professional.”

Despite the results, the report also found that legal professionals did not feel quotas would help obtain gender equality.

Butler continued, “Gender quotas are very much chicken before the egg and to truly solve the problem of gender equality in the legal industry we need to tackle the root causes of the issues, not just tinker with the results of a dysfunctional system.”

“Key to overcoming the gender equality problem is setting up a forum in law firms, and amongst legal teams, where women feel comfortable discussing the attitudes and practices that might be holding them back.”

“The women working in the UK profession are bright enough to be part of one of the best legal industries in the world, so let’s learn from their experiences and apply these to future generations and create environments women want to be a part of and excel in.”

About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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