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Why the gender pay gap is an issue that needs addressing

18/10/2016
Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

Pay scales are a prevalent topic of conversation in almost all legal circles. However, in recent months a great deal of the discussion around remuneration has been leaning towards rising newly qualified pay, and away from the ever important topic of the gender pay gap. According to a recent study from Deloitte the gender pay gap won’t close until 2069, and as a profession known for its male heavy leadership teams, the legal sector needs to do more to address the gulf.

Gender equality - Are legal firms making progress?

The profession is certainly making progress. Earlier this year eight London law firms were recognised in Business in the Community’s Top 50 Employers for Women league table for championing gender equality. The annual league table recognises businesses that ‘demonstrate gender equality as a key part of their business strategy’ throughout all levels of their organisation – including leadership positions.

Gender equality is a concern for a number of sectors, but the legal profession frequently finds itself under fire for a having a lack of women at partner level. However, Linklaters, Addleshaw Goddard, CMS, Eversheds, Hogan Lovells, Herbert Smith Freehills, Pinsent Masons and Simmons & Simmons proved themselves worthy of a place in the top 50, by demonstrating a ‘commitment to creating workplaces and cultures that are inclusive of women.’

The gender pay gap - a long game?

However, Deloitte’s analysis not only indicated that pay parity won’t be achieved until 2069, 99 years after the equal pay act of 1970, but also that the gulf widens over time in all 10 of the most popular graduate careers surveyed. A recent salary survey from The Law Society supports Deloitte’s findings, indicating that while on average men earned 19.2% more than their female counterparts, the gap is widest for equity partners.

So while many firms are working to make their cultures more inclusive and diverse, it is clear that few are tackling the pay crisis head on. Firms need to ensure that they actively work to address the pay gulf, particularly at partner level, to guarantee that they attract and retain the top talent. Many firms are working to encourage women to stay in the profession by offering flexible working policies that allow them to effectively balance their work and home lives, but as discussions over gender pay find themselves back in spotlight, practices need to ensure they are working to close the gulf or risk losing some of their most talented professionals.

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