Law’s gender pay gap is worse than any other degree’s

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By Katie King on

Recent graduates’ salaries far more equal in architecture, engineering and computer science

The gender pay gap hits young lawyers just six months after they leave university, data suggests, leading the chair of the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) to urge firms to use this as an opportunity to evaluate their pay structures.

Eighty percent of female law graduates from the country’s top ten higher education institutes earn less than £30,000 six months out of university, compared to just 60% of male law graduates.

Image via CIPD

These shocking stats, collected by the Higher Education Statistics Authority and recently reproduced by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), mean law is at the bottom of the pile in the equal pay stakes, even among stereotypically ‘macho’ courses like architecture, engineering and computer science. In fact, discrepancies between gender pay are narrowest of all in maths and engineering graduates.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

Legal Cheek wishes to make clear the limits of this data. It focuses solely on graduates six months’ out of university, and therefore provides little indication of what male and female law degree-holders earn across a lifetime.

However, Harini Iyengar, an equality law barrister at 11KBW, does think this research has implications beyond its six-month cut-off point. She believes an important reason that law fails to retain female lawyers is the lack of equal financial reward to men. Iyengar, who was recently a parliamentary candidate for the Women’s Equality Party, continued:

“I think we will only see gender equality in the profession in our lifetimes if firms and chambers invest serious time and money in tackling structural inequalities — or if the Women’s Equality Party succeeds in bringing in quotas. Now parliament has voted that Brexit will release us from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, Britain can legislate for quotas without any delays caused by pesky EU human rights arguments!”

Adele Edwin-Lamerton, the chair of the JLD, agrees something needs to be done to address this indefensible pay gap. She told us:

“It’s unfortunate and sadly quite ironic that the profession responsible for arguing cases under the Equal Pay and Equality Acts should have the largest gender pay gap of any profession. I would hope that firms take this opportunity to evaluate their pay structures to ensure that law graduates are paid equally, irrespective of gender.”

Elsewhere in the CIPD report is a consideration of graduate pay across the country, rather than from the top ten universities.

Raw data shared by the CIPD with Legal Cheek shows that when you move away from the highest echelons of higher education the gender pay gap picture brightens — slightly — but the salaries unexpectedly get worse. Across the board, 86% of recent female law graduates earn less than £30,000, compared to 72% of their male peers.

A difference of 14 percentage points means law is one of the worst for unequal pay, but not the worst. Veterinary sciences has a percentage point difference of 15, while combined degrees’ figure is 25. There’s not a single degree discipline whose female graduates earn more than male graduates (using the CIPD’s metrics), though computer science is the most equal with a two percentage-point difference.

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