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04
Nov
How can women shape the future of the legal industry?

How can women shape the future of the legal industry?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg said “When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough women on the Supreme Court? And I say ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” and she was right, of course.

From the first ever woman of the Supreme Court in the United States, Sandra Day O’Connor, named in 1981, to 36 years later when there are still only four female members. Move over to the United Kingdom and the facts are even bleaker, with only one female Justice of the Supreme Court appointed to date. So I ask myself, is this an accurate representation of women within the legal profession?

Women have been outnumbering men on university degree courses for some time now, in fact, in 2016, 67.5% of the applicants onto undergraduate courses were women. The Law Society1 noted in 2016 that out of 175,160 solicitors on the roll, 50.2% were women. How, then, if women are the majority, are we so misrepresented within the legal sector?

One of the most obvious ways that we can enact change is to create more senior positions for women within law firms. The SRA2 found that women make up only 33% of partners, with the difference being greater still in larger firms, which statistically have 27% female partners. Although progress is being made, it remains unquestionably low and gender equality within the legal profession is still a long way away from parity.

Naturally, if the number of women in senior positions within the legal industry increases, we should see more advocates for gender equality and individuals supporting and attracting young girls and women to the profession; fundamentally creating more female role models from within. The importance of teaching young people from an early age is crucial. Every child has the right to reach their full potential, something that gender inequality prevents, and specifically, young girls should be encouraged to ignore gender stereotypes and be whoever and whatever they want in life. The above statistics are off-putting and reflective of a different generation; not my generation, not today’s generation.

Looking at this question differently, it’s true that men and women have different genetics and skills. Of course, some are mutual but what men cannot bring to the table is the perspective or experience of being a woman. Women are commonly seen as being too compassionate, soft, and emotional; but what is wrong with being compassionate? These traits, in my opinion, add to the making of a brilliant lawyer. Perhaps if these traits were interpreted positively in the workplace, women may be valued in a higher, more respected regard. If we can work on improving our best attributes and collectively, as a society, be ourselves, we can help eradicate the idea that there is a certain way to be if you want to progress within a legal career.

Ultimately, for change to happen within gender equality, we must have the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility. Malala Yousafzai said “We realise the importance of our voices only when we are silenced”, something that is all too true for women across the globe. My utopia would be a society in which credit is given based on the merit of the word spoken and the ideas

put forward and not the gender of the speaker. I came across the coined word “hepeated”, meaning – for when a woman suggests an idea and it’s ignored, only to be repeated by a male counterpart for everyone to love the same idea. Silence is a powerful thing but I believe it’s time to speak up. If we can come together and empower each other, women will have a chance to shape the legal industry of the future.

 

1 https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/Law-careers/Becoming-a-solicitor/Entry-trends/

2 http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/diversity-toolkit/diverse-law-firms.page

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