International Women’s Day – Why it’s time for women to shine in law
- March 1, 2018
As we all know, the legal profession has historically been male dominated, perhaps more so than almost any other. However, times are changing – not just in law, but across the board – and women are now getting the same opportunities that were once almost entirely reserved for men. Theresa May is Prime Minister, Cressida Dick is the head of the Metropolitan Police, and Angela Merkel has been heading up Europe for a number of years.
Within law, things are also changing. Baroness Hale, the Supreme Court Deputy President – is expected to replace the retiring Lord Neuberger who steps down at the end of next year. She has already become the UK’s first female Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and is currently the only female justice of the Supreme Court.
In addition, Lady Macur is lined up as the next Lord Chief Justice and will become England’s most senior judge when Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd also retires in 2017. And it’s likely that this won’t be the end of women being promoted to greater positions of power within the UK legal arena. We’ve written before about the rise of flexible working in law over recent years and the introduction of this way of working to the Supreme Court is likely to encourage more women to the posts. And the vacancies will be there to take, as a record six other senior judges are expected to stand down in the next two years as they approach retirement.
Flexible working doesn’t just appeal to women of course, but it should help to encourage more mothers of young children, for example, who may have stepped away from full time positions to care for their families. It can also help to improve diversity and therefore business performance if managed in the right way.
As well as the introduction of flexible working, equality law provisions will also come into play, specifically the clause known as ‘the tipping factor’, which allows employers to treat a candidate from an under-represented group more favourably if:
- Both candidates are “as qualified” as each other
- The employer selects on merit
- And taking the action is seen as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Women in the legal profession set to rise
All three are likely to apply to the Supreme Court so it’s highly likely that we’ll see even more female professionals join Lady Macur and Baroness Hale at the top table of the legal profession. It appears that it’s not just politics where women are making their mark, but also in law too. Here’s hoping this provides an inspiration to female professionals and the legal firms that embrace diversity and we begin to see greater numbers of women make partner over the coming years.
For more insights from the team take a look at our other blog posts.