March 8, 2019
International Women’s Day honours the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is a promotion of gender equality in all fields and an opportunity for women of the world to unite.
International Women’s Day falls on 8th March each year, its origins can be traced back to the early 1900’s. In 1910, Clara Zetkin tabled the idea of an official International Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Working Women, held in Copenhagen. Although the idea was met with unanimous approval, initially only 5 countries participated in the celebrations. Now, more than 100 countries mark the day, with many even making it a national holiday.
The Legal Profession
This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which allowed women to join the legal profession. Women have made huge strides in the fight for equality, but it is not over yet.
The Equality Pay Act 1970 made it illegal in the UK to discriminate based on gender, yet it seems that the gender pay gap is still staggering. Following the Equality Act 2010, companies with more than 250 employees are required to report on their gender pay gap. A report published after the 2018 deadline found that the data showed an overall median pay gap of 9.7%, however in the legal profession the median pay gap was 29%.
This difference greatly increased when partners were included in the statistics, the gender pay gap there was 50.8% and in the magic circle firms even went well into the 60’s. The larger firms were keen to justify their results by explaining that the gender pay gap and equal pay are not the same thing. The numbers are swayed by the fact that women tend to be employed in support roles and make up 75% of the lowest-paid quartile.
However, this justification could be taken a different way, it is much harder for women to climb the professional ladder. While there is little dispute that at entry level there is reasonable equality in recruitment, retention and progression are still falling behind, with currently only 29% of partners in larger firms being female.
In a 2018 report, Bridging the gender pay gap in law firms, a partner at a large UK based law firm stated that the pay gap ‘is having a direct impact on the recruitment and retention of talent.’ The report addresses various issues that still need to be tackled in the workplace; such as bias hiring, pay reviews, bonuses, promotions, retention and equal sponsorships.
The First 100 Years project, an organisation for women in the legal profession, stated that ‘Women are still not sufficiently represented at equity level, amongst QCs or in the judiciary and when they are, they are not paid as much as their male counterparts.'
Bucking the Trend
These issues are profound but that does not take away from the huge steps that have been made in the right direction. More and more women are reaching senior positions and in January 2019, the first female CILEx Judge was appointed in Exeter.
Here at Spencers Solicitors, we break the mould in terms of the usual gender split in the legal workforce; we have always strived to achieve equality in the workplace. Three out of five members of our management team are female, with more than three quarters of the work force female. We foster a work environment where everyone’s opinion is equally valued and equal pay is standard. Our recruitment is focussed on attracting the right skills and experience into the workforce to compliment the talent we already have regardless of gender. When it comes to developing staff, we encourage growth and professional development in all our roles, enabling staff to progress their careers and allowing us to maintain a highly skilled workforce.
About the Author
Antonia Greaves, is a placement student in the Employment team at Spencers Solicitors who is currently studying Law at Sheffield Hallam University.