Wed, 22 May 2013
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Law Society president proposes targets to get women into management
Its way more complicated than this as to why women are not at the top. Personally I do not agree with “quotas”. The reasons for the lack of female progression are to do with gender culture -law is a man’s world and a lot of women don’t know how to play the game in an acceptable way – and the rules are different for us. Plus obviously we have the large impact that having children has on a women’s decision/ability to try and progress post-children - women leave the profession in high numbers after having a couple of children.
Cultural pressure: in UK society, if both parents “have” to work past the second child, you are the subject of pity (as in “he can’t be doing very well then, can they if they need two wages?”, “I don’t know how you do it” etc). Compare to Madrid and Paris where the opposite is true, ie, an educated woman having a number of children and holding down a successful full time job is something to be proud of (also note huge differences in cost and availability of home-help and childcare in UK compared to parts of Europe).
Law firms are a male hierarchy and women can succeed but to do so is undoubtedly trickier. Women cannot just “act like a man” this backfires on those who do it. There is a more limited scope of acceptable business behaviours that apply to women and it requires acting in ways that are not always natural to the female ethos. Many women find the cultural/behavioural requirements they find thrust upon them while trying to progress frustrating and too difficult – it feels like double standards – so they quit just before it gets too hard (often in law firms this is at senior associate level, the “holding pen” for frustrated female talent). I would like to see more women “accepting” the way it is and getting on with it. And I would like to see more value placed on the sort of relationship maintenance, soft selling and “connecting” of networks that many women are naturally very good at.
In my opinion quotas wont help but education (of both sexes) and talking about the cultural differences would – as would cheaper childcare and home-help like that available to many of our continental sisters (most English nannies would baulk at having to do any cleaning as well as childcare). Also you need a supportive husband – the one who pushes you forward rather than offers you a way out by staying at home.
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