Women in Law - Where are we now?

Monday, January 18, 2021

Celebrating the centenary of women's inclusion in the legal profession 

The 100th anniversary of women achieving the vote is marked in 2018 and next year it will also be the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which paved the way for women to become lawyers. Today, it is recognised that the legal profession needs to be representative of the society it serves. However, gender equality is still a topic of concern in our sector – this month, all companies across all sectors with more than 250 employees must declare their gender pay gaps to the government. It has now been revealed in a study published in the Financial Times that law firms’ female partners earn 24% less than men. Amongst solicitors there is nearly gender parity, but only 33% of partners are women and in Magic Circle firms, only 21% of partners are women. This imbalance at senior level demonstrates that there is still some way to go before a 50:50 balance of gender equality can be achieved in the legal profession.

However, change to close the gender gap amongst lawyers is in progress and many firms have now set up gender equality working groups to challenge and implement processes to ensure fairness and diversity. Flexible working is becoming a key area of focus and improvement in law firms with a Magic Circle firm recently launching a flexible working scheme and many in the process of following suit. More than a third of UK legal firms have now signed up to the Law Society’s diversity and inclusion charter, which includes a commitment to flexible working.

The charity First 100 Years is a ground-breaking history project which has been established to celebrate women’s role in the profession with an extensive programme of activities and events planned in the run-up to the centenary of women in law in 2019. For information on this vital history, including when Eliza Orme became the first woman in England to get a law degree from University College London in 1888, please see this timeline.

At Law Staff Legal Recruitment, our own specific diversity policy involves recruiting the best candidates for our clients, regardless of gender. We are committed to promoting workforces which celebrate differences and embrace diversity.