Revealed: females make up less than 10 per cent of top 100's equity partner ranks

  • Print
  • Comments (45)

Readers' comments (45)

  • Why the sob story all the time. If they want to make partners they should work and they ll get made up. There is no magic to it. This is not government job...any private sector job should be on merits and same sacrifices that everyone makes to get there.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I agree with Eddy, setting target is not the best way to change the situation. However, sometimes having a specific target will help firms stay focused and get there faster. But the underlying same old difficulty really goes down to the personal and life style choice made by women when they have a family. If law firms' way of working and business driven nature don't change, the fundamental change won't happen.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Given the average age of equity partners and the rigid (and long) locksteps most firms employ, it is hardly surprising that a high female intake hasn't filtered through yet. It simply reflects recruitment figures from the 70s.
    Rather than providing one-off 'shock value' figures it may be more helpful to gve a breakdown of how female/male ratios change with PQE and whether there is an upward trend in female partner appointments (which may let us forecast future equity figures).

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • So what?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Can anyone from Weightmans, Filed Fisher Waterhouse, Bond Pearce, BLP, Taylor Wessing and Mcfarlanes let us know how you have less than a whole number of female equity partners, I hope this is not dwarfism discrimination in practice.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It's amazing to see even from the comments that men just dont get it - dear Harris, unfortunately it is not the same - if a man and a woman decide to have a child - this does not reflect in a negative way on the father's career at a law firm, but a woman has to take time off, is not able to work at her best for 9 months before the birth (due to generally feeling extremely tired and sick) and for some time when she is back, especially if she is back only after a few months. This multiplies if you have two children - again no impact on the father's career but the woman out of say 4 years at a law firm, would have only worked less than a year when she was not either pregnant or on the maternity leave, so when the law firm thinks considers those two for a partnership - guess whom they are going to chose?
    And Phil - 70s was 40 years ago - average lawyer is considered for a partnership after around 7-8 years - there was plenty of time to change the ratios...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The real question is: why do we somewhat naively think that women would, or should, be 50% of all equity partners in what is a remorseless profession that destroys home life, turns relationships sour, makes parents total strangers to their children and warps even initially balanced people into workaholic maniacs?
    Thank God that at least part of the population has more sense that to want to become an equity partner at a City law firm.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Male Chauvinists

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • If women has a strong interest in equity partnerships, they will get them in the existing firms or go out and risk starting up new, female oriented ones. That shall either make the existing top firms change to keep the best with them, or the new firms will be challenging for top ranking with the best among their ranks. In either case the current top firms will adapt to continue to hold their valued position, not to demean women, or keep control in the hands of men or anything of the sort.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Brecher statistics :
    15 partners -7 women
    4 EP's -2 women.
    It would be interesting to see the statisitics for those (few) firms where the managing partner is female.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • What would be really interesting would be an analysis of how many female associates at the firms wanted to become partner there, and the reasons why that didn't happen, rather than just bare stats.
    It's not that surprising that women who have made it to equity partnership don't think quotas are needed, because they obviously didn't need them.
    The resentment a quota system would cause probably means it's not worth it, even if well intentioned - it's not as if all male lawyers just walk into partnership.
    Still, the firms in the table should ask themselves whether there is something inherently sexist about the way they are promoting - figures such as 0 female partners out of 69 are fairly surprising.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The women who are EPs bring in work and contribute financially to the firm other than billing on other partner's client's files. That's why they are EPs as the firm can't afford to lose the work they bring in and so rewards them accordingly.
    The vast majority of female associates and FSPs I have worked with bring in very little work. They may bill well and be excellent lawyers, but that's only half the battle. Unless they put the partnership in a position where they cannot afford to lose them because of the work they bring in, they won't make EP. Firms don't just give up equity points to good fee earners as the partnership would become diluted.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Why are there decimal points on the number of partners?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Seems like the consensus is that the central problem is clients are not giving enough work directly to female partners to make them sufficiently valuable to a law firm to then make into equity partners.
    I.e. client relationships are not going to be lost if they don't promote women to the equity. After all, law firm partners are greedy b*ggers and if having more women made the men more money they would do it in an instant. Frankly they would cut their left legs off it made them more money.
    Maybe the real problem is with the clients? Maybe the male GCs don't bond well with the women, so no client loyalty, hence no equity partnership. QED....?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The decimals represent full-time equivalent ie there are some part-time partners

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Catherine - If an associate has 2-3 years less experience than another associate then it is hardly fair to disregard that discrepancy when making partnership appointments. While firms should do everything they can to support women who take time out (e.g. by keeping them involved in firm activities, good maternity packages etc) when it comes to making appointments, anything other than a strictly meritocratic approach would undermine the firm's business and create a hostile, resentful working environment.
    Your sexist generalisation is also unhelpful. I imagine many women who put their careers first and delay having children would be just as opposed to anything other than a meritocratic partner selection process.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • There seems to be a pretty fundamental flaw in the maths here - the percentage proportion shown is the number of female equity partners compared to the total number of partners (equity and non-equity), not the total number of equity partners. Unless any of the firms listed are 100% equity partnerships (which I doubt), the percentages given are meaningless. Either show the proportion of all partners who are female or the proportion of equity partners who are female - don't mix the two.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @Anonymous | 25-Oct-2012 11:22 am
    Good point, the percentages don't work.
    Would guess therefore they are far, far smaller than ones given here for female EPs, if relative to all EPs at the firm.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anon @11:17
    You seem to assume that PQE alone forms the basis for a meritocratic approach and that the woman with 2-3 years less experience in real terms is, by virtue of that alone, less worthy of partnership than her male peer who has had that 2-3 years on the job experience. That is hardly a meritocratic approach.
    In my experience very average male associates are made partner purely as a result of time spent, whereas a female associate needs to be exceptional.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • As a female junior equity partner I have to say that having children is not the main reason it is difficult to progress. I don't have any children and am just as committed to the long hours and the BD as my male colleagues (if not more so).
    However despite having fantasic relationships with my existing clients, I struggle to get acquire new clients because, quite simply, it's still a man's world out there at boardroom level. Most decision makers in clients are men - and they simply feel more comfortbale building their network with their men. As do the men in the partnership.
    The Boys Club is still alive and thriving. I don't blame the men - I think both genders find it easier to build trust with their own gender to a certain extent. But it does mean that even women who choose to play by the law firm rules are not playing on a level field. Add to that the different behavious between genders and you find that partnerships made up mostly men reward male behaviours.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anon @ 11:43
    I am not assuming that PQE should be a sole determining factor but likewise it should not be completely disregarded. If you are made partner at 8PQE then 2-3 years is a significant chunk of your career (during which your skills and knowledge will continue to develop).
    If, despite this discrepancy, an associate is a better candidate than someone with more PQE then of course they should be the preferred candidate.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Catherine | 24-Oct-2012 6:02 pm
    You seem to be suggesting that women who have had years off and/or working at part capacity should still be made up at 7-8PQE. Why on earth would/should a client pay the same high partners' hourly rate for someone with only half (or less) the experience? This is utter nonsense and I would never support it (am a male mid level associate, so not some old dinosaur). On the other hand, women who have made it to 8pqe but with breaks should not be at a disadvantage against those (male and female) who have worked constantly. That I agree with.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Professional service firms generally (accountants and actuaries as well as law firms) have always rewarded the traditional ambitious-male model of working insanely long hours and bringing in insane amounts of money. Some women also choose to do this, whether or not they have a family, although from my observation, the majority who do, do not have any caring responsibilities (sorry about the generalisation and, yes, I am a woman who balanced working full time with rearing a family and I made it to FEP).
    Unless professional service firms grasp the nettle of working out how people who don't follow the traditional model (both men and women) can be rewarded with equity status (if they want it) because they bring something other than shed loads of money to the party, nothing will change. In my view, it's an issue that is not restricted to women, although it's a more obvious problem for women.
    There's no reason why the "something other than money" criteria shouldn't be as tough and challenging as something that often ends up with a wrecked marriage, estranged children and non-existent social life. I doubt it will happen, to be honest. SMART objectives are easy to apply to tangibles like billable hours and winning new clients. They are almost impossible to apply to intangibles.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Good point by anonolady. I agree, men and women do tend to feel more comfortable doing business with their own gender. This currently may impede the potential of women to build their own client base, which is unfair. However, similarly, hr departments tend to be largely, and often solely comprised of women, who look more favourably on female candidates. Around 2/3 of trainees are female.
    Therefore, if there should be quotas for female partners, should there also be quotas for male trainees? Or does discrimination only work one way?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @Anonymous | 25-Oct-2012 2:19 pm
    At my firm, HR may organise trainee recruitment but they don't make the recruitment decisions, the partners do. I can honestly say that we simply do not get as many applications from male graduates. We would like a 50:50 split but there are not enough male candidates. Is this discrimination?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • If you get fewer applications from men and therefore you take on more women, that is no more discrimination than a firm where more men fit the criteria of partner, bill suffient hours and bring in work, and are therefore made up. Either both the fact that there are more female trainees and that there are more male partners are discriminatory or neither are. It is not logical, an more than a little hypocritical to say there being more male partners is a problem that needs to be addressed through intervention, whereas there being more female trainees isn't.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Am I right in thinking that the 'Proportion of female equity' is based on a percentage of the total partners overall rather than the number of equity partners?
    If so isn't that slightly misleading? For example if only 20% of partners are equity partners then the figures sound much worse than they actually are. If a firm with 100 partners had 20 equity partners, and 8 of the equity partners were female then the appropriate figure for the above table would be 8% despite the fact that 40% of equity partners are female.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonolady @ 3:40pm
    If you apply the logic of some of the commenters then this is just as discriminatory as failing to have a 50/50 equity split. Apparently it is only the statistic that counts so you should just hire more men until you have equality at trainee level.
    Also, the fact that you are failing to attract male trainees obviously means that your recruitment process and/or firm environment discriminates against young men and you should be making more of an effort to fix this (beer tents at job fairs, booze cruise sabatticals for men etc).

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @anonymous 3:50
    The factors that are applied to our recruitment policy are not discriminatory - in that they do not favour either men or women. The male and female applicants have an equal chance of getting the job, it just so happens that less men want that job. Can we honestly say that the factors that affect promotion to partnership are not discriminatory? Do we honestly think that women have the same chance of making it to partner but they just don't want to? If that is genuinely what you believe, then may ask you why you think they aren't making it or don't want to? Are they workshy, incompetent or do they love their children more than men? I believe that later in a woman's career, she faces more difficulties delivering the things that the male partnership value because she has less opportunities to network and bag clients. I honestly don't think that quotas are the answer but is there not something in between?
    @anonymous 4:32 Personally I would have enjoyed a beer tent at a job fair. Top idea!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It's been suggested over and over again that women face unique obstacles and should therefore have unique advantages, or at least have the obstacles neutralized.
    I find it rather winy at best. Are there baby caring issues that are unique to women? After birth I think not. Why then is not, in a unsubstantial way, men being encouraged to take on those issues as well. We all know that fathers are no less interested in caring for their children but have obstacles in their way, such as being forced to work those extraordinary hours, hobnob with potential clients who they are forced into social relationships with but wouldn't want to call friends, and possibly worst of all degrade their priority for spending time with their own children.
    Is the issue of why men are not being given real choices balancing family and work life being given the same equity scrutiny that the current issue seems to find over and over and over again?
    Such a discussion would help resolve both problems I believe.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonolady - if your firm is taking on more female than male trainees, that is as discriminatory as a firm making up more men than women. The reason more men are made up is they tend to work longer hours and bring in more work - law these are necessarily the criteria for becoming partner, law firms aren't charities. How else should elevation to partnership be decided?
    If women, or men for that matter, choose to spend more time with their children that us their choice, but then they can't complain if their colleagues are promoted ahead of them. The fact ther are more women applying for training contracts and thus forming the bulk of trainees is a result of discriminatory social conditions. Therefore, there being more male partners is germane to there being more female trainees in terms of discrimination.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • ever heard of breast feeding dave cote???

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'd like to see what the 0.36 equity partner looks like?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It's very much like Anchorman.
    Sorry to see a Newcastle firm at the bottom of the ladder. I wonder if other Newcastle firms are similarly bad?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Many cogent points made. As for the long hours culture, this is in no small part a function of billing by time. The simplest way to make more money is work longer hours. Even FEPs can have targets of 1800 hours. If a person's total commitment to the firm is meant to be between 2,500 and 3,000 hours, that is 6 - 8 hours every single day of the year. Throw in a holiday, maybe Christmas and the odd weekend, and parents' evenings, (and of course travel) and working full time will very likely mean 12 hour days during the week.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "marjorie | 26-Oct-2012 9:50 am
    ever heard of breast feeding dave cote???"
    Thanks for the question Marjorie however belittling you may have intended it to be.
    I have in fact heard of breast feeding. In almost all cases I believe it to be the best nourishment for newborns, and only problematic when it's available to children who are 2, 3 or even 5 years old.
    Yet I take your point to have something to do with women who choose to breast feed needing to take time off in order to do so.
    Breast feeding is still a choice, like having a child or striving for a place at the equity table. Those may be incompatible choices and one must prioritize.
    However, they are not incompatible choices by reason of breast feeding. Many have successfully raised children, many breast fed through pumping, and still others by many other means that do not include their own breast milk.
    So I take your point, I completely dismiss it as far as a reason that women need to have a g'me or are entitled to access to the equity table.
    Please write again.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "Harris Berry | 24-Oct-2012 3:52 pm - Why the sob story all the time. If they want to make partners they should work and they ll get made up. There is no magic to it".
    Ah yes, Harris - great point. OF COURSE the fact that 90% of equity partners are male can be explained SOLELY by the silly women not working as hard as their male counterparts. It's so obvious really. Glad we have a clever man like you around to point out the real reason behind the statistic. Your wife must be a LUCKY LADY!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • There is reseach which shows that women (with or without children) get fed up with the culture in law firms (whioh includes all the long hours etc,), not being appreciated, not getting access to the best work and not being promoted when their male colleagues are. So they leave. What a surprise.
    As well as the issue of women not getting promoted, firms need to think about what they do about women who have taken a career break. The reality is that they find it very difficult or impossible to get back into practice. I do not see any evidence that firms are doing anything about this, despite all the rhetoric. So the skills and experience of these women are lost, while at the same time law firms are saying where have all the women gone?
    This is really not a difficult issue to solve, if anyone really wanted to. The issue which has not been acknowledged in this discussion is that it is actually about power. Those who have power don't want to give it up and that's part of the reason why fewer women get promoted. Of course logically the best candidate should get promoted, but in fact many people make decisions based on emotions, then they try to justify them. Getting the real issues out in the open would be a good first step.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • To "Former magic circle senior associate" - to be childless is not necessarily to lack a husband

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Female ex equity partner | 30-Oct-2012 6:45 pm
    There is reseach which shows that women (with or without children) get fed up with the culture in law firms (whioh includes all the long hours etc,), not being appreciated, not getting access to the best work and not being promoted when their male colleagues are. So they leave. What a surprise.

    No kidding, the long hours kill everyone. Don't know about the other factors you mention - I never saw it happen, perhaps you can link to the research.

    I do think it is time for men, and the leadership of law firms, to stick up to this bullying campaign by the feminist lobby.

    The truth is that most big law firms are pretty brutal places to work whatever your gender is. That more women choose to drop out of it in favour of other choices shouldn't surprise anyone, as they often have better choices than their male counterparts.

    For those who are willing to make the sacrifices their male peers make - no time with the kids, no home life, precious little social life - I don't see how women can't make it.

    A lot of this is really special pleading to get women into partnerships just to "balance the numbers", i.e., because they are women.

    Pretty sexist, but we all know this campaign at the root isn't about "equality".

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The following letter, published in Wednesday's Times this week, on the subject of board quotas is rather au point:
    "The misconception that underlies the resistance to imposing boardroom quotas is that there are only a limited number of 'good' (suitably qualified and experienced) women and that quotas will lead to 'poor' (ineffectual) women being appointed over 'good' men.
    In reality there are as many cracking professional women as men out there, in ample numbers to fill quotas ten times over. Women will rise to their posts and skill up appropriately as they do now lower down the job market and as men have been doing as they have historically taken up these top posts. The reason for higher ratios of men continually being appointed are rooted in comfort, tradition and unconscious bias, which
    quotas are needed effectively to bust."

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • To Anonymous 31 October 9.47pm
    I don't understand what you mean when you say that "we all know this campaign at the root isn't about "equality"".
    What do you think it is about?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "In reality there are as many cracking professional women as men out there, in ample numbers to fill quotas ten times over. "
    In this discussion I do not read, nor is the dispute here about whether one could find women with the professional ability to do the work and fill the position.
    Rather, do women WANT to do the whole job or prioritize it to the same extent as men have been socialized to. If not, it is not in the firms best interest to promote women over the more compliant men.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Its complicated. The reasons are primarily cultural (and by that I mean gender culture) as well as physiological (women are likely to have far more commitments outside of the office).
    Yes women leave the industry in droves on having children. However I am not sure that is particular to law, I believe that is an English cultural thing – in our 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?” and the infamous “I don’t know how you do it” said to any FT working mother). I think that in parts of the continent, 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 – almost a status symbol! (Differences in cost and availability of home-help and childcare in UK compared to wider Europe also a key factor here). The fact that Helena Morrisey CBE has 10 kids sort of proves the point that its not the number of kids that makes or breaks you its more complicated than that.
    But outside of that, like many workplaces, law firms are essentially (as proven by this report) a male hierarchy and a man’s world in which success is based on playing the game by men’s rules. That is not to say that women cant also succeed but to do so is trickier (even leaving aside the more obvious differences like having primary care of children). Women cannot “be like a man” – we all know the women who do try this and how it backfires. We have a more limited scope of acceptable business behaviours than our male colleagues and we have to operate carefully within these paremeters, in ways that would more usually be quite alien to the fairly “egalitarian” tendencies of female culture. Many women, frustrated at the difficulty and apparent double standards quit at this hurdle, it just seems too hard – not at the junior levels but in fact at senior associate level, which serves as a “holding pen” for such frustrated female talent. I would like to see more women “accepting” the way it is and getting on with it. And 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.
    Quotas are not the answer. Education and talking about the differences will be helpful. As would cheaper childcare and homehelp.
    Husbands yes – definitely the sort of husband you have makes a difference. He is either going to support you in your career (by getting you to challenge and push yourself out of your comfort zone) or he is going to give you the easy option (don’t worry darling, why don’t you stay home and bake cakes instead).
    Told you its complicated.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

Mandatory Required Fields

Mandatory

Comments that are in breach or potential breach of our terms and conditions in particular clause 8, may not be published or, if published, may subsequently be taken down. In addition we may remove any comment where a complaint is made in respect of it. These actions are at our sole discretion.

  • Print
  • Comments (45)