“It’s just bad for business”: Law Society president Christina Blacklaws on gender imbalance in the legal profession

The president of the Law Society has called the lack of women at senior level in the legal profession “deplorable” and “a significant worry” in an interview with The Guardian yesterday.

Christina Blacklaws, who is the 174th president of the independent professional body for solicitors – and only the fifth to be a woman – spoke about the deficit of women entering the profession and those who are partners. More than 60% of new solicitors each year are female, but women account for only 30.8% of partners. These figures are reflected in the Bar with only 15.8% of barristers being women.

“The lack of career progression is not only [due to the absence of] childcare,” she commented. “In some of the larger law firms, the percentage of women in equity partnerships is 11% or 12%. These are sticky figures. Not changing.”

The Law Society has been hosting a series of roundtable meetings to highlight the issues preventing parity of women, as well as commissioning surveys and detailed reports to support these findings with statistical data. Many respondents to the survey identified the “masculine shape of the law” as a key disadvantage for women, which included women feeling that that they have to partake in activities such as drinking after work and playing golf in order to reach senior positions.

“It takes a lot of undoing to think and act differently [otherwise] we revert to operating an old bias, which does lead to discrimination,” said Blacklaws. “So it’s important that there are things like training and career champions whose job is to keep [the issue] alive, most particularly when it’s about recruitment and remuneration.”

Blacklaws also urged men to take responsibility for redressing gender inequality. “They are a key part of the solution,” she said.

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