Gender disparity underlined as Law Society reveals stark gap in perceptions over equality

Gender disparity underlined as Law Society reveals stark gap in perceptions over equality

It appears the recent wave of awareness over the treatment of women in all industries has done little to dispel ingrained beliefs in law. A survey of nearly 8,000 – mostly female – lawyers conducted by the Law Society has found that three quarters (74%) of male lawyers perceive there has been progress on gender equality within the legal profession, while less than half (48%) of their female counterparts agree.

Coinciding with International Women’s Day the survey, released today (8 March), sheds light on the perceived progress of gender equality in the legal profession, with unconscious bias cited as the most prevalent obstacle to women reaching senior positions.

Just 11% said unconscious bias training is carried out within their organisation. With 7,781 lawyers, including 5,758 women, 554 men and 1,449 whose gender was unknown, the Law Society has lauded the survey as the ‘largest ever on gender equality in the legal profession’.

91% of respondents believed flexible working was critical to improving diversity and inclusivity within the legal profession. However, under half (43%) said that diversity and inclusion training was consistently enforced within their firms. Despite a majority being aware of a gender pay gap in their organisation, only 16% identified ‘visible steps’ taken to address it.

Given the size of this survey, it seems likely it will feature in a larger project being undertaken by the Law Society to detail obstacles to diversity within the legal profession.

Christina Blacklaws, the Law Society vice president, said: ‘I am a passionate believer in equality. Where there is inequality, I will not flinch from tackling it. While more and more women are becoming lawyers, this shift is not yet reflected at more senior levels in the profession. Our survey and a wider programme of work during my presidency in 2018-19 seek to understand progress, barriers and support remedies.

‘With our Women in Leadership programme, the Law Society is committed to giving women and men in law the tools to make positive changes towards gender equality.’