For this International Women’s Day, the theme is to #EmbraceEquity by recognising that equity isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have.
When looking at how to #EmbraceEquity, it’s important to understand the difference between equality and equity.
Equality focuses on providing all genders with equal opportunities, such as women’s right to vote. Yet, women often require more than a level playing field. They need an environment that actively promotes and supports them in all aspects of their life, from education to the workplace to healthcare.
Equity can be defined as giving everyone what they need to be successful instead of giving everyone the exact same thing. Giving everyone the same support in the expectation that will make people equal, assumes that everyone started from the same place – which is clearly not true.
Female partners are still well below parity with men
A 2021 Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) survey, (published in 2022) showed that despite 61% of all solicitors being female, only 35% are partners. Although the gap has narrowed slightly since the same survey was carried out in 2019, the proportion of female solicitors overall remains unchanged, while the proportion of female partners has only risen from 34% to 35%. This shows that there is still a clear disconnect between the number of female solicitors and their progression to partner status, and more needs to be done.
A different survey carried out by Law.com goes further, showing that in 2022 across the UK’s largest law firms, 27% of partners are women and only 22% of women make equity.
To address this imbalance, many law firms have implemented gender targets to improve female partner statistics. However, another analysis by law.com in July 2021 shows more firms have missed these targets than achieved them.
How does Wright Hassall compare against other law firms?
Across Wright Hassall as a whole, 70% of our workforce is female with 65% of all legal roles being held by females.
At partnership level (including equity partners), our workforce is 49% female and 51% male. This places us, according to the Law.com survey results, joint second amongst the top 25 law firms and significantly above the average of 27% across all law firms surveyed by the SRA.
In terms of equity partnership, 69% of our equity partners are male and 31% are female, placing us joint 9th in the firms surveyed by law.com and above the 22% equity partnership average. This is an area that has significantly changed at Wright Hassall over the last few years with over 50% of the new equity partners being female.
Although we acknowledge that there is much more to be done within Wright Hassall to promote gender equity, the results to date indicate that, compared to other law firms, Wright Hassall is one of the leading law firms on gender parity within the sector.
On International Women’s Day, we asked three of our Partners to outline their thoughts as to why gender equity is so important within the workplace:
“Gender equality is so important as it ensures that every individual, regardless of their gender, has the right to be treated the same as another. It also provides positive role modelling for the next generation, that everyone should have an equal opportunity to make the most of their talent be that in the workplace or otherwise.”
Kylie Cooper, Partner and Head of Commercial Real Estate
“During my 22 years with Wright Hassall, the firm has increasingly focused on gender equity with positive results at all levels within its structure. For me, this has led to more diverse thinking which has only helped the firm in its strategic decision-making. A central value to the firm today is that irrespective of gender; skillset, performance and attributes are the key to a person’s career progression. The firm continues to recognise that it requires a focus on gender equity, and it will continue to offer a workplace where all its employees can thrive – with a more gender-diverse management structure – issues that women may have faced as hurdles in the past will stay in the past. “
Gemma Carson, Partner
“When I started law in 1994 there were very few women leaders. They felt the need to have the fax machine in the delivery room to prove their worth. I found that a bit depressing, even before I properly understood the restrictions created by children, elderly parents, and menopause. Things have changed and men often share carer roles now, but we need to constantly challenge what we can do to embrace the energy, skills and experience of women throughout their careers and across all roles. There is much still to be done.”
Susan Hopcraft, Professional Indemnity and Conflicts Partner
On this International Women’s Day, it’s clear that there needs to be continued improvement across Wright Hassall and the legal industry in general in relation to equity within the profession. We will continue to be transparent regarding our gender diversity and share our progress in continuing to improve equity across the firm, valuing the differences and advantages that a diverse and inclusive workforce brings to the firm.
Written by Mark Shrimpton, HR Director at Wright Hassall.