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City law firms’ gender pay gap revealed: Herbert Smith Freehills, CMS and Shoosmiths first to publish data

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Stark stats to be approached with caution

Gender pay gaps of between approximately a fifth and a third have been revealed at three of the country’s biggest law firms.

Thanks to the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017, all companies with more than 250 employees must self-report on their pay by April. So far, three major corporate law firms are among the more than 500 employers that have published their data, which doesn’t include partners, early. Though an initial scan of the figures produces stark results, i.e. very high gender pay gaps, thankfully the data is more nuanced than you might expect.

To begin with, Herbert Smith Freehills — the global giant that takes on about 60 trainees a year. The firm pays its female staff a mean hourly rate 19% less than its male staff. By comparison, the UK-wide gender pay average is 18%, or 26% among the legal profession. When you consider the median hourly rate, which is less likely than the average to be skewed by particularly high earners, the difference is 39%.

Sounds bad, but Herbert Smith Freehills is content to conclude it is “confident men and women are paid equally for doing equivalent jobs across our firm”. The pay gap exists, the report says, primarily because of the distribution of women and men within different jobs at the firm. A large proportion of female staff (22%) work in secretarial roles, which tend to be less well paid than fee-earning roles, for example. The firm, a Times Top 50 Employer for Women, adds:

“If we exclude secretarial roles from our data analysis, our mean pay gap reduces to 8.8% and the median to 13.6%. This result helps us conclude that our pay gap is the result of distribution of roles; we remain confident that we pay equally for equivalent roles.”

Herbert Smith Freehills’ results are in keeping with those from two other major law firms to have announced their results: CMS and Shoosmiths.

Regarding the former, international megafirm CMS pays its women an average of 17% less than its men. Its median is 33%. Like Herbert Smith Freehills, the firm says these figures are “heavily impacted by the disproportionate female to male ratio in the firm, particularly in business support teams, as well as the high numbers of part-time female workers”. This leads CMS to conclude that “the overall picture at the various levels and offices [of the firm] shows no pay gap”.

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And as for Shoosmiths, the average hourly rate for women is 15% lower than it is for men, while the median is 13%. Shoosmiths chief executive Claire Rowe said:

“We are pleased that Shoosmiths’ median pay gap stands below the national average but we recognise there is still more work to be done. Over the past 12 months we set up a Gender Equality Working Group which reports directly to the board. The group was established in recognition of the fact that a series of actions need to be taken at a firm level to advance gender equality. It provides a sounding board to discuss issues and potential solutions. Likewise, the board brings ideas to the group to collaboratively pin down the steps to be taken, giving our employees direct input and influence on decisions that will affect them.”

The right of women to earn as much as their male colleagues is an important issue that pervades the legal profession. Just this week, the BBC’s China editor, Carrie Gracie, resigned from her post citing gender pay inequality. She described the corporation’s pay as “indefensible”.

As for other companies to have released their gender pay data, budget airline easyJet has raised eyebrows with its 52% median pay gap. Again, the business cites the distribution of women across its ranks as an explanation for this (the airline employs nearly 1,500 male pilots and only 86 female pilots). Women’s fashion chain Phase Eight’s gender pay gap is even wider than this — 65%. Thirty-nine of Phase Eight’s 44 male employees work in corporate head office rather than in shops.

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20 Comments

Trumpenkrieg

“The pay gap exists, the report says, primarily because of the distribution of women and men within different jobs at the firm.”

It wouldn’t serve your hysteria-stoking agenda quite as well to put this sentence in the lead paragraph rather than bury it half way down the article, would it?

Anonymous

Data say gender gap exists:
Electoral votes for Hillary: 232
Electoral votes for DJT: 306

25% gap

Anonymous

I guess “Apparent wage gap primarily exists because men and women tend to work different jobs even within the same firm” doesn’t have a ring to it for the SJW brigade

Trumpenkrieg

No, it doesn’t. That is what left wing middle class journalists do, kick the hornets’ nest of social relations in order to add a sense of purpose to their pointless lives.

Anonymous

The drivel you come up with is a sign you have never been loved.

Just Anonymous

What is Legal Cheek’s gender pay gap, out of interest?

I obviously don’t know your salaries, but let’s consider what we’d observe if everything were operating fairly. I assume that Katie and Tom are paid more or less the same. However I also assume that, as the owner, Alex is paid significantly more.

This would yield a clear “gap” in men’s favour.

Despite there being no unfairness whatsoever.

This simple example demonstrates why the mere fact of a gender pay gap is, in itself, meaningless.

Anonymous

Women have other inherent advantages to men financially so a workplace gender pay gap is in fact a real leveller. Should they wish, women are much better placed to make a side income through selling their bodies, not necessarily through sexual acts in person but these days on webcam too. In any event, there still remains a huge onus on guys to pay for things over women. Far too often men pick up the drinks tab, foot the restaurant bill, or pay all the rent.

Anon

Daft drivel

Anonymous

How so?

Pascal

Mate, sounds like you need to get your baps buttered lol

Larry

TOTES LOL

Anonymous

You daft, arrogant witch. You try but fail to make what could be a valid point. Your example is awful. There is a reason the minimum size to meet the reporting threshold is 500 employees. Far more likely to be skewed when the sample size is 3.

Anonymous

In b4 “SEE ITS BECAUSE ALL THE WOMEN ARE SECRETARIES AND ALL THE MEN ARE IMPORTANT LAWYERMAN NOTHIN TO SEE HERE”

A drunk man looks at a thistle

LOL that they focus on the secretaries but don’t point out that partners aren’t included in the analysis!

Anonymous

“When you consider the median hourly rate, which is less likely than the average to be skewed by particularly high earners…”

You do realise that median is also an average?

KK

Mean is an average.
Median is the middle value. Not the average.
Moron.

Anonymous

Take the data set 1 1 1 1 100
Mean: 20.8
Median: 1

That’s what they mean by the median not being as skewed by high earners.

Anonymous

Surely they should also have stated what the mean and median pay gaps are when you remove fee earners from the data and also what those figures are for fee earners alone?

I would be surprised if a large international firm had a gender pay gap in fee earning roles! However this would mean that in business services, IT etc. women are being paid almost 10% less than men on average. Very disappointing to see.

Brown Circle

Ah, CMS and Shoosmiths, two firms in the same league.

Anonymous

Barristers have it too. Higher fees have been agreed for males the same year of call or less years’ call than women doing the same type of case for the exact same law firm.

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