Nine-year study to track progress towards gender parity at top of profession

Kennedy: The law needs good women at the most senior level

A nine-year global project to uncover the root causes of the lack of gender parity at the most senior levels of the legal profession has been launched by the International Bar Association (IBA).

The project – announced yesterday to coincide with International Women’s Day – will look at whether diversity initiatives introduced to address this disparity are having any impact, and to provide practical conclusions and guidance to the profession.

Titled ‘50/50 by 2030’, the goal is to provide a blueprint by 2030 for achieving gender parity in the highest levels of private practice, in-house positions, the public sector, and the judiciary.

Research will be undertaken across 15 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America.

With data collection and analysis in 2021, 2024, 2027 and 2030, it will be the first to provide global information from law firms, bar associations, law societies, government, public prosecution, in-house lawyers, and the judiciary over an extended period, providing insight into how the profession is, or is not, changing.

IBA president Sternford Moyo said: “We need a global legal profession that not only understands and appreciates the need for diversity and gender equality but will take action to ensure their realisation.

“We cannot continue to have so few eminently qualified and capable women denied parity in senior roles.”

Vice-president Almudena Arpón de Mendívil added: ‘Despite good intentions, despite the merits and talent of so many women, we still don’t reach the most senior positions across the legal sector mainly due to discriminatory obstacles placed in our paths.

“This directly clashes with the principles defended by our profession. The legal sector cannot afford this contradiction and should lead by example. With the benefit of raised general awareness around discrimination, it is time for increased action.”

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, director of the IBA’s Human Rights Institute, said: “The law needs good women at the most senior levels; for too long women have been denied justice in aspects of their lives because the law was created from a male perspective and embedded in the fiction that the law is neutral.

“To secure just outcomes and public trust, the law in all our countries must change. I know from my international work that this is a global issue. We need more female lawyers at the top. More senior partners in law firms, more senior judges.

“The discourse on any subject is improved when it involves diverse voices. This is the route to real justice.”

The IBA is working with the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation on the project.

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