A guest post by Kate McMahon and Tamlyn Edmonds, partners at Edmonds Marshall McMahon and co-founders of Networking Nuance
International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on the difficulties that women still face when it comes to achieving gender parity.
We marked the 100-year anniversary of the first woman solicitor in England and Wales in 2022. While there has been huge progression in the legal profession since that time to address gender equality, there is still a significant amount of work to be done to achieve true equality, particularly at senior levels.
Women make up over half of the profession, yet only 35% are partners and only a small number of those female partners (25%) obtain equity. Women in law firms in the UK still on average earn less than men, are more likely to leave the legal professional than men, less likely to make partnership and even less likely to obtain equity.
These make for surprising statistics, especially when viewed against studies which show a positive correlation between increased gender diversity in leadership positions and increased profitability and performance of those companies that achieve it.
A recent Credit Suisse Research Institute Gender 3000 report found that companies with at least one woman on the board outperformed those without. In fact, they outperformed by 26% on average in terms of share price performance.
The message is clear – women make great leaders. More women are needed at partnership and equity level in law firms, not just to increase the performance of the business, but also to encourage junior women who aspire to leadership positions.
If you can identify with a role model, it’s more likely that you can see also yourself in a leadership position and the path becomes clearer.
A 2022 Harvard Business School study showed that job satisfaction is 86% higher for an employee who works for a wise and compassionate leader, metrics on which women score highly. It’s also accepted that gender balanced leadership leads to increased diversity in the workplace.
So, what can be done in order to support women to get to the top and to retain them when they get there?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, yet we would emphasise the importance of flexibility and accountability. This is where female lawyers demonstrate a great deal of strength. Given the freedom to work to deadlines and targets, the likelihood of success is higher.
The key is to take into consideration the responsibilities that women have around work so that they can work in the most optimum way – significant flexibility when it comes to working hours and ensuring tasks are set in advance means women can juggle work with the many responsibilities they have outside of the office.
We all know that working in law can be difficult and demanding, yet there are ways to set women up for success with the right mentality.
Furthermore, it’s high time we encourage these women to shout about their successes, not least because acknowledging one’s accomplishments is extremely important but also to help show others the way.
We are passionate about improving gender parity at equity level in law firms, which is why last year we set up Networking Nuance, an e-mentoring programme for female lawyers, to share advice and tips from the best in the business.
It’s often forgotten that one needs to be ‘seen’ in order to progress in your career and there are a number of ways you can do that.
At Networking Nuance, women across all levels can find instant and accessible advice about how they can succeed in their legal careers; how to bring work into a firm by networking; how they can deal head on with issues women tend to face in the industry; how to forge their own path in the profession so as to become an expert ‘rainmaker’; and how this path can be made easier for them to eventually demand equity.
It is no secret that within the legal industry, the more work you bring in, the more power and options are accessible to you. We provide practical tips to help women do just that.