The glass ceiling is still firmly in place

ALTHOUGH nearly half the lawyers admitted nine years ago were women, only 25 per cent of this year's new partners are women.

This is despite the fact that the majority of respondents to the survey, carried out by the Young Women Lawyers group conceded that there was no shortage of eligible women for partnership.

Further, 42 law firms of the top 100 did not reply to the questionnaires. These included City firms such as Allen & Overy, Nabarro Nathanson, Richards Butler, Stephenson Harwood and Dibb Lupton Broomhead.

By all accounts women are some of the most able solicitors. Statistics show that women are awarded more first class and upper second class degrees than men, and achieve a greater proportion of distinction and commendation grades in Law Society approved practical training courses.

Over the years, the most commonly cited reason for the so-called "glass-ceiling" was the insufficient numbers of women entering the profession. The day would come, so we were told, when numbers would equalise and only then would women receive fair representation in the partner stakes. But, quel surprise – it hasn't happened. So why are women not making the grade?

After sitting through a management seminar on the role of women in firms some time ago, where young male partners expressed their views on how difficult it was to work with women partners, only one man stood above the rest in terms of enlightenment. Jonathan Lewis of DJ Freeman expressed astonishment at the chauvinism in the room, pointing out that his female partners were often better at their job than their male counterparts.

It is easy to blame women for their lack of progress in partnerships. It is less easy to take a long hard look at the attitudes of those in charge. Until this happens, the path to the top for women will continue to be blocked.