Fri, 24 May 2013
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Revealed: females make up less than 10 per cent of top 100's equity partner ranks
The discrimination which women solicitors face is not by their firms in most cases. It is by their husbands.
Most childless women have no problem in terms of career progression. It is attempting to balance child-rearing and working in a law firm that prevents women rising as they become unable to "give their all" the way male colleagues with a housewife can continue to. In making the same (ridiculous) demands of both male and female associates firms are not discriminating. Husbands are discriminating by expecting their careers to continue unaffected whilst their wives are left to juggle.
Many succesful male solicitors don't see this as a problem. After all, if a woman does put in the hours she'll get made up right? The problem is that law has increasingly become a female profession and so it will become increasingly hard to fill out the senior ranks with lawyers of sufficient quality if the pool you draw from is largely male.
The solution is for more rational working practices and allowing more balance for both men and women. A significant proportion of the long hours and facetime expected of solicitors (including in transactional areas) is a result of poor management, outdated approaches and machismo. It will be no loss to the economy, clients or the legal sector if the long hours culture was reduced and facetime eradicated.
The reason this message doesn't get through is because so many current partners (whether male or female) got where they are by "putting in the hours" and so they regard that as the ultimate test of quality.
It is also interesting that sexuality and gender issues get more time and attention than race issues and all three get far more time than class issues. This strikes me as quite obviously because there are an army of middle class people who feel they are entitled to a hand up because they are women, gay etc despite the numerous advantages they already have. When I was at a law firm there was a vocal lobby of privileged women who wanted allowances to be made for just them so as to promote their careers and otherwise were indifferent to the issue of fairness at the firm. This self-centred approach damages the cause of all who oppose discrimination. No discrimination issue should be separated from broader issues of fairness and access to the profession.
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