It is widely reported that there is a gender bias problem within law which appears to go far beyond women’s careers suffering from taking maternity leave. Today is International Women’s Day and 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of women in the law; what better springboard is there to set the record straight and begin rectifying the problem?
The Law Society reports that since 1990, women have represented more than 60% of new entrants into the legal profession. In 2017, 50.1% of practicing solicitors were women, but women made up just 28% of partners in private practice. So what is happening to stop women progressing from qualification to partnership?
My own career progression so far looks like this: paralegal, trainee solicitor, qualification, join DMH Stallard in 2018 as a two-year qualified solicitor. During my relatively short career in law, I personally have not experienced any gender bias (as far as I am aware), and there certainly doesn’t appear to be a problem in encouraging women into the profession. However the stats suggest that there is an issue with them progressing to more senior roles.
As a junior lawyer I haven’t had to address gender bias, but there is no doubt that it does still exist in some organisations. Employers need to support individuals, both men and women, to develop their careers and juggle the daily pressures of life outside of work, and that support given needs to be tailored to each employee’s needs. Given the technology available to employers there is no reason why flexible and agile working in most situations cannot be put in place to assist employees.
It is quite clear that there needs to be shift in people’s views about a woman’s place in both society and the workplace. For example, social norms still anticipate that women who choose to have children will be the primary carer, even though many fathers would probably elect to be far more involved.
Women are just as competent and can compete in the work place in the same way that men can. Gender bias in either direction is an archaic vision that does not have a place in the 21st century. Technology and flexibility will be key drivers, but the will to make change happen is critical.