Articles From the Team

Gender equality, or inequality…

A couple of months ago Emma Delli-Bovi wrote a blog –￾ruling-the-world – which really made me laugh and got me thinking. With Theresa May picking up the keys to No10 Downing Street and Hillary Clinton knocking on the door of the White House, Beyonce may have been right; who runs the world? Girls!

As of late there has been a lot of talk on social media and in the online press about gender equality in the work place. To some, rightly or wrongly, this might seem like a subject that doesn’t need to be spoken about in 2016. Surely it’s a given that there is no difference between men and women in the work place?! The unfortunate reality is that it does still need to be discussed, or perhaps forgotten?

When I say forgotten, I don’t mean that flippantly. What I mean is that perhaps we should stop worrying about it and let a person’s merits speak for themselves regardless of gender. I think this might be a common opinion, at least I hope it is a common opinion. However, earlier this year The Guardian reported that: “Women earn 18% less than men on average…”

As a legal recruiter, without stating the obvious, I work in a target driven environment where our financial rewards are based on performance. As it happens I have chosen a career path within an industry where the workforce is predominantly female, all of whom are remunerated equally alongside their male co-workers and often out-shining the lads with monthly figures. So why haven’t other industries caught up?

Research undertaken by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that the pay gap between men and women balloons after women have children, raising the prospect that mothers are missing out on pay rises and promotions. Here we are nearly 46 years after the Equal Pay Act and yet there still isn’t equal pay for men and women! The encouraging news is that the gap is down from 23% in 2013, although it is still 18%...

It’s not all about money of course; there was a news story back in May about a woman at an accountancy firm being sent home for not wearing heels with the firm stating that she had not adhered to their “reasonable” dress code demands. Is it fair to assume or even demand women to wear heels to work? Some social media commentators turned the story upside down stating that construction workers often have to wear steel-toe-capped boots. This is entirely true but this is a matter of health and safety, are heels a matter of health and safety for accountants?

John Lewis announced that their new Managing Director taking the reigns in 2017 will be none other than Laura Nickolds who joined the company as a graduate trainee in 1994. This is the first time in their 150 year history when a woman will be at the helm. Looking beyond Britain and into other industries we see huge global corporations and brands all being lead by women: Mary Barra – CEO of General Motors, Christine Lagarde – Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook, Susan Wojcicki – CEO of YouTube, the list goes on. Yet despite all of this we are still talking about gender equality in the work place, or inequality as the case may be.

It’s difficult to draw a conclusion that doesn’t come across in some way accusatory; however I will say that as a legal recruiter I find the latest statistics around women in the legal profession very promising. A rise in trainee numbers among women with the SRA reporting 62.8% of all trainees being female and 61% of all solicitors admitted to the roll being female; a rise in Associate and Senior Associate promotions among women and a rise in the number of female Partners including Managing and Senior Partners across the UK: Trowers & Hamlins appointed Jennie Gubbins as Senior Partner, DAC Beachcroft appointed Virgina Clegg as Senior Partner and DLA Piper appointed Sandra Wallace as Country Managing Partner for the UK.

Regardless of your gender, whatever point you’re at in your career and whatever your needs around contract negotiations, flexible working, location etc to have a confidential chat about your legal career and how you would like this to progress please do get in touch.

Gishan Abeyratne

Senior Associate – Private Practice

Bristol & South West

0121 237 5619

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