WILL: Women in law want promotions, not a better “work/life culture”

A new survey by female network Women in Law London (WILL) claims female lawyers care more about promotion opportunities than support from their firm for a better work/life balance.

The survey, which collected responses from 327 UK-based legal network members, showed that only 12.5 per cent of women surveyed think that their firms or companies link diversity with performance or rewards.

WILL co-founder Fatema Orjela said the survey flags that members “are not convinced that management buy in to the need for change”.

“Discussions on diversity still widely tend to focus on work/life balance,” she said. “This underlines the need for firms to consider alternative solutions to tackle the issue (such as role models/sponsors, business development training, and increased transparency).”

According to data from the survey, 9.2 per cent of respondents ”definitely want to be working outside of the law in the next five years”. Almost half (40.7 per cent) said they did not want to leave the law in that time period. However, 38 per cent thought there was a possibility that they would consider leaving the law. 

”It is imperative that firms seeking to improve diversity,” Orjela said, “incentivise management to actually commit to the cause and tailor their solutions accordingly to match the spectrum of concerns of their female staff.”  

According to one of the respondents, women who ask for flexible working are told ‘off the record’ that it will “harm their career prospects and are generally refused anyway”.

Earlier this year, Fieldfisher became the latest UK firm to appoint a first diversity manager with the aim of increasing female leadership.

Magic circle firms have jumped on contextual recruitment to promote social mobility and diversity from entry-level roles. They follow in the footsteps of Hogan Lovells and Baker & McKenzie, which were the first two law firms to adopt the CRS system, in May and Ashurst and Herbert Smith Freehills in June.

Despite efforts by the legal profession to focus on diversity, a study by The Lawyer showed that the gender gap in pay remains pronounced with a £24,000 difference in average salaries.