More than 60% of women lawyers feel their gender has prevented career progression

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By Thomas Connelly on

But quotas aren’t the answer


Most female lawyers believe that their career progression has been hampered because of their gender, according to new research released today.

According to recruitment outfit Laurence Simons, a whopping 62% of women lawyers questioned felt their gender had hindered their progress at reaching the top positions within the legal profession.

In contrast, just 16% of men felt that their gender had acted as a barrier.

But of almost 140 lawyers questioned, almost half felt that quotas were not the answer.

Trumpeted by Proudman but slammed by Lord Justice Leveson, 47% of lawyers believe that quotas — whether enforced or voluntary — would be “ineffective” in addressing gender equality across the top City firms.

Instead, lawyers who were questioned suggested greater focus be placed upon flexible working arrangements, retention of top female legal talent and specifically tailored development programmes.

A further 19% of lawyers agreed that quotas would be effective in readdressing gender balance, but due to their “patronising”, “anti-meritocratic” and “discriminatory nature”, they should not be implemented.

A quarter of those questioned were in favour of enforced quotas.

However examining the attitudes of women and men separately, divisions in opinion begin to emerge.

While 42% of women lawyers questioned backed quotas to ensure gender balance at partnership level, just 16% of male lawyers agreed with them.

With the report suggesting it will take 64 years for genders to be equally represented at current rate of change, Clare Butler, global managing director at Laurence Simons, said:

Gender quotas are very much chicken before the egg and to truly solve the problem of gender equality in the legal industry we need to tackle the root causes of the issue, not just tinker with the results of a dysfunctional system. Key to overcoming the gender equality problem is setting up a forum in law firms, and amongst legal teams, where women feel comfortable discussing the attitudes and practices that might be holding them back. The women working in the UK profession are bright enough to be part of one of the best legal industries in the world, so let’s learn from their experiences and apply these to future generations and create environments women want to be a part of and excel in.

Further research undertaken by the recruitment specialist discovered that 21% of magic circle partners are women. This figure drops down to just 19% at silver circle level.