Partnerships bypass women in NI, survey finds

Women in Northern Ireland law firms are not making it to partnership, a survey by The Lawyer has discovered (see page 34).

Eleven of the the top 20 firms have no female partners while eight have one female partner each. Out of a total of 75 partners in the top 10 firms, only 11 are women. However, around half of the assistant solicitors are female (52 out of a total of 102 assistants in the top 10).

“I'm not surprised at these figures,” said Margaret Magennis, who recently set up the Association of Women Solicitors in Northern Ireland.

“They reaffirm our aim to have a proper survey carried out by the Law Society of Northern Ireland so that we can see the broader picture.”

She added: “Both the Law Society and the profession needs to be seen as having proper equal opportunities policies.”

Commenting on the figures, Equal Opportunities Commission chief legal officer Mary Larkin said: “The commission is more disappointed than surprised at this news.

“The glass ceiling forms a barrier in most professions and the law is no exception.”

She added that if the figures were going to improve significantly, “the profession will have to identify the real reasons for this continuing imbalance, then perhaps everyone involved can come up with some practical solutions.”

One female solicitor, who did not wish to be named, said she would like to know the terms of partnership for those who did make it and how their financial remuneration compared with their male colleagues, as anecdotal evidence suggested that there were major disparities.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Law Society said that the issue “rang a bell”.