Freshfields mulls female partnership targets in diversity push

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  • I wonder what the golden target number will be? And would it really be enforced?

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  • Can this really be right? While I understand the need for greater diversity I am not sure I can understand the point of targets to fulfill quotas. Surely there is a legal risk to it, what about a male claiming unfair discrimination because a female who is less qualified is given promotion just to fill a quota?
    Surely promotion should be about merit and not about whether you have genitals or not.

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  • I think there's a difference between a target and a quote. Presumably the target is an aspiration - as such I would assume you make your target 50% - why put it any lower? I assume that the firm has done some research on the cause of gender imbalance at partner level. If one of the reasons is the lack of female role models within the firm, then forcing the issue by targets/quotas may be the only way to address that. Flexible working initiatives will only work in this context if firms show some commitment to promoting people who work flexibly - I suspect that is some way off. Otherwise, flexible working is just a way of avoiding someone leaving for a few years until it dawns on them that they've been led down a path with no prospects.

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  • So the solution to discriminaiton against women is discrimination against men?

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  • So according to you, women don't have genitals? Someone's clearly still a virgin...

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  • So the next step is to ensure there is a quota of 93% of partners state-educated?

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  • Engineering the number of female candidates to go forward to partnership is a disastrous methodology to work from - why not just look after associates along the way, support them, don’t overwork them month-in month-out, and then be able to choose the best candidates for the job!!

    The turnover of associates at this firm is absolutely ridiculous, and one of the biggest reasons is that, women especially, feel that they are not supported in their long term aspirations, and if they have kids, that is basically partnership out the window, regardless of whether they even wanted it in the first place.

    The Law Firm model as we know is also not helping put more women on the legal map. Partnership is such a hard title to get your hands on, (anywhere in the City), and there is a big “up or out” mentality. The really unfortunate part about it, is that when women are at the senior associate stage, just when they are at the point of really building out a business case, building out a reputation, and a contact list that they can then use to try to get into partnership, is also just at the point when (speaking frankly), it’s having kids time. They (women) then, quite often end up missing out on partnership opportunities, which they would have wanted just as much as men.

    My guess is that most women in firms like Freshfields, can’t get excited about partnership because they know that having kids (or even just having a life between the ages of 25-35), means that getting to the holy grail of partnership is an even harder slough than their male colleagues will have to go through.

    If we want to see more female partners in law firms, change the business model under which they operate…

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  • If I were male freshfield associate I would sue the firm. If women need to be elected it should be on fair basis. This is not womens tennis after all.

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  • Mentoring and presentation training for female lawyers? Why do women need this and not men? This approach is old hat and is based on the idea, which is itself discriminatory, that women need extra help. They don't. They just need the same help that their male colleagues get and to be judged on an equal basis. There is plenty of research showing that this doesn't happen and that women leave because they don't feel valued. Have they asked the women what they want and what they think is holding them back?

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  • It is not female lawyers that need training in this field it is senior male partners. I really think that targets are the only solution and targets do not mean that women will be promoted because they are women. It will means firms will wake up and ask why so few women are being promoted.
    I have been told I will never make partner because I work 4 days a week. I have also been told that because I work 4 days a week and have been on maternity leave twice ( I took 6 - 7 months off) that I am "deskilled". Unless there are real advances in how women are treated I will not be encouraging my daughter to become a lawyer.

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  • @Anonymous 28-May-2012 3:03pm
    That is outrageous! Can't believe anyone is so short sighted to think that 4 days a week and short bouts of mat leave mean you will never be promoted. Please, for your own self-respect, seriously think about moving firms - there are so many city firms I know how have promoted partners on the basis of 4 days a week. I'm not saying it's easy, but it is possible. Even if you're not interested in promotion, they don't deserve you!!
    I agree a lot with a previous poster who identifies the Law Firm Model as the problem here. Taking mat leave at precisely the pre-ordained time when you are supposed to be building a business case etc automatically bars women from the promotion path. This is ridiculous. Why not just accept that some people will take some time off (a matter of months in most cases), come back and resume a career. the Path to Promotion can then re-start. Yes, it will take a bit longer, but why is this a problem?
    The model is rooted in the past when lawyers (men) just ploughed on regardless and, at approx 7-8 years PQE got made up. THIS DOESN'T WORK ANYMORE!! It makes me so cross, all this messing about with quotas and flexible working, when all it takes is a tiny, minuscule change of perspective to mean that more women become partners.
    I am really quite cross about the whole thing.

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  • Given the comparative small number of male trainee solicitors, it is only a matter of time before the numbers of females promoted to partner level within firms increase naturally, without needing a shot in the arm from artificial positive-discrminatory targets.

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