International Women’s Day: Profession urges continued efforts to retain women solicitors

The Law Society of England and Wales is encouraging the profession to continue to improve the progression and retention of women to senior levels, as it marks International Women’s Day.

Data from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) shows that the proportion of women in law firms has risen from 48% in 2015 to 53% in 2023.

The seniority gap for women remains but has narrowed slightly since 2015:

  • 32% of full-equity partners are women
  • 47% of salaried partners are women
  • 62% of solicitors are women in private practice

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said:

“This International Women’s Day we are encouraging the profession to continue to press for increased efforts on the progression of women solicitors to senior levels and to ensure the retention of talented existing and prospective women solicitors.

There are persistent issues regarding the pay, retention and promotion of women solicitors which impacts the careers of women within the profession. Work is not always fairly allocated with some women also experiencing a lack of employer support for a work-life balance. These issues are further compounded by the lack of visible senior women role models resulting in many women being held back from reaching their full potential.

Firms and the profession are losing brilliant solicitors on the cusp of senior leadership. As a result, the profession and the public are not benefitting from the diversity of thought that women will bring into the roles and the rooms where decisions are being made and talent is lost.

However, there are positive signs of progress. Firms have begun to analyse their pay gap in greater detail, publishing further data on partner pay, taking action on ensuring the gender diversity of their newly appointed partners through recruitment or promotion targets and creating strategic, realistic and measurable action plans to address inequality.”

The Law Society’s Annual Statistics Report 2022 found that more solicitors are exploring alternative career paths to develop their careers in settings outside of the traditional route to partnership within private practice firms. Nick Emmerson concluded:

“In order to protect and retain the best diverse talent, the profession must lead by example with clear recruitment, performance and promotion policies. Organisations must also create and maintain an inclusive workplace culture that embraces and promotes effective flexible/hybrid working, shared parental leave, alternative progression paths and provides support for women returning to the profession after family/career breaks.

We urge our members to sign up to our Women in Law Pledge, which requires signatories to commit to senior level accountability for progressing gender equality, setting targets for women at senior levels and creating a culture that’s inclusive and free from bias.

Our Women Solicitors Network continues to promote inclusion in the legal profession by supporting and advising all women solicitors, from trainees to retirees, to ensure our profession reflects the diversity of our society. We can all do more and do it better. This International Women’s Day, we should all take action to make the change we want to see in our profession.”

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