Society management

The pay gap between men and women in the law remains significant, according to a report from the Bar

Dawson: We need to recognize the exits more than the entrances

Women in largest law firms earn on average one-fifth less than men, and the gender pay gap is 50% larger than for companies nationwide, according to Law Society analysis .

As of 2017, all companies with 250 or more employees are required to publish information on the gender pay gap and the Law Society has reviewed the 41 largest law firms submitting data for the April 2020 pay period, for which the declaration deadline was October 2021. The majority excludes the partner’s remuneration.

It found that the gap between women and men employed on the basis of hourly wages was 20% on average (the highest was 39%), slightly less than in 2017, but still well above the 14% national pay gap. The median difference was even higher, at 32%.

The smallest average pay gap between men and women reported in 2017 was 13%; in 2020, a company’s gap was actually 1.1% in favor of women.

While a similar number of people of both sexes received bonuses in the April 2020 snapshot, men were on average 39% more important than women.

The report found that the law firms that have narrowed the pay gap the most in recent years have some common characteristics, including greater transparency and accountability than required by law.

This included reporting more detailed data, such as the breakdown to different levels – partners, associates, sales departments – and in different locations, as well as tracking the profile of hires and side promotions.

There was also evidence that these companies were hiring staff at all levels – including female sponsorship, reverse mentoring, leadership programs, and improving networking opportunities across the company – and took steps to ensure fairness in HR or compensation policies, for example by ensuring that hiring decision makers are diverse. and knowledgeable and scrutinized around the division of labor.

Speaking at Fiona Woolf’s talk on the gender pay gap last night, Law Society President I Stephanie Boyce defined the gender pay gap numbers in terms of generally low representation women at high levels of the legal profession.

She noted that the sector had taken “progressive steps” towards pay equity, but that they were insufficient.

During the opening remarks, Georgia Dawson, senior associate of Freshfields, said the pace of change was “too slow” and that the problem was not the number of women joining the profession, or their caliber, or the number of women in managerial positions in the practical house, of which there were many. Instead, it was the “ecosystem” of law – the City’s courts, judiciary and law firms.

The legal profession has had to examine the functioning of courts, chambers and private firms, she said, adding that the pandemic offers an opportunity to improve the situation.

Flexible working over the past two years had been “incredibly liberating” but also exposed the “risk of two-track careers” between those who were in the office and those who were not.

Ms. Dawson added that a key solution to improving the lot of women in legal practice was to abolish billable hours and recognize “outputs, not just inputs”. This involved fully appreciating the value of “soft skills” such as good management.