For reasons I have never fully understood, I’m often given the ‘women in law’ articles to write. I did one for the Guardian a while back, having previously co-written an epic 4,000 worder on the topic for Legal Week (£) with its editor Alex Novarese.
The pieces relayed the standard narrative about women in the legal profession: there are no longer problems with representation of women at graduate recruitment level (approaching 60% of trainees at law firms in England and Wales are female), but there is a big problem with women making partner (around 20% of partners are female).
And in attempting to explain this, I conformed to the standard explanation: that many women take time out in their 30s – a crucial period for career-building – to have children, and never manage to recover the ground they’ve lost to their male colleagues.
What I’d never thought about before, though – until this article by solicitor Kevin Poulter in LondonLovesBusiness got me thinking – was how similar law firms are to the TV industry in their gender demographics…
Visit any big City law firm and you’ll see lots of attractive young women who conspicuously outrank their male peers on the hotness scale, but, as you’d expect given the statistics mentioned above, a real dearth of women over 40.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the formula of serious older men alongside a sprinkling of attractive young women sells.
Could, then, there be something in the idea that the under-representation of women at senior levels in the legal profession isn’t just about motherhood, but also to do with older women not fitting the image law firms want to broadcast?