Women in leadership in law

In September 2018, SAL women participated in a round table discussion with The Law Society on Women in Leadership in Law. These discussions focused on a number of areas including unconscious bias, gender pay gap, the history of women in the law, identifying male champions for change and how the global sisterhood can make a difference.

The discussions took place under Chatham House Rules to enable SAL women to speak freely about their experiences and will feedback into The Law Society’s action plan to achieve gender equality in the profession. Chaired by Vidisha Joshi (youngest managing partner in a Top 200 law firm and fellow SAL member), the discussions drew upon experiences our female members have faced and possible solutions to current barriers faced by women when seeking to progress their legal careers.

In March 2018, The Law Society released its findings from the largest international survey of women in the law on key issues affecting women in the legal profession. The survey received over 7,700 responses and unconscious bias was identified as the most significant barrier preventing many women from reaching senior positions. Appallingly, from the responses only 11% reported unconscious bias training being consistently carried out in their organisation.

We take this opportunity to firstly thank all our female members who provided information to SAL about barriers they have experienced, which informed our discussions and also to thank those who attended as part of a select group to participate in these important discussions with The Law Society.

Following on from these discussions, SAL calls upon more members (from whichever gender) to become involved in shaping the future of the legal profession. This is your opportunity to have your say. Two key areas SAL want your views on are: unconscious bias and the history of women in your organization.

Calls to Action

Write to us at: secretary@societyofasianlawyers.co.uk Place “Stage 2 Women in Leadership in Law” as the subject matter of your email.

Unconscious Bias

We want each of our members who are working in law firms at whichever level (qualified/non-qualified) to commit to asking your leadership team what measures have been put in place to tackle unconscious bias and whether these measures have led to visible results. Biases may exist within firms toward women, particularly BAME females where social stereotypes have been formed preventing these women from getting into senior positions within the firm. The Law Society currently offers FREE unconscious bias training for everybody via the Professional Development Centre: https://tls.csod.com

We suggest that you send the link to your supervisors and managers and undertake the training yourself to work out your score but also learn new ways of thinking. Find out if your firm would be willing to use blind recruitment measures for all internal and external vacancies. Firms need unconscious bias champions to proactively raise awareness, talk
about the impact of unconscious bias and encourage everyone to undertake the training. Please talk to your HR teams about getting the leadership to commit to installing mixed boards and panels throughout the organisation when making decisions relating to recruitment, assessment, shortlists and promotions to consider gender, race, age, background, ability and ethnicity.

History of Women in Law

We would also like to hear from you about the history of female careers within your firm. Please write to us and let us know when your organisation was established, when did it hire its first qualified female member of staff, what year was the first female associate appointed and in what area did she qualify, when did the firm promote the first woman to senior associate/equivalent role, when was the first female partner recruited and what year was a woman promoted to head up a practice department/ be part of the management board/ join head office or regional HQ and if applicable when did a female legal professional in your firm first become a QC/judge/magistrate/commissioner? Have any of the females in your firm received accolades, why and when? Please let us know about other female firsts in your firm.

We look forward to hearing from you. In June 2019, the Law Society will host an International Symposium to celebrate the centenary of women in law and to launch the results of these discussions and how we can continue to build the momentum to achieve gender equality.

You can read more about The Law Society’s Women in leadership in law programme on their website.

Chamali Fernando
Barrister & Committee Member
Society of Asian Lawyers


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