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

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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?

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  • @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?

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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).

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  • @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!!

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • ever heard of breast feeding dave cote???

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

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  • 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?

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  • 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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  • 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.

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  • "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.

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  • "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!

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  • 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.

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

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