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Glass ceiling

Glass ceiling

The Chambers Student Guide is an in-depth guide to finding a legal career in the UK. It reviews solicitors’ firms, barristers’ chambers, and law schools and provides market analysis and guidance on the recruitment process.

According to the ‘Law Gazette’, Chambers research shows that magic circle firms are lagging behind for gender diversity at partnership level. On average 19.1% of magic circle partners are female with a benchmark of 23.3% across all firms surveyed. Linklaters was the only firm to score above average, with 24% of its partners female, while Allen & Overy scored the lowest (16%).

Regional firms dominated the top 20 for gender diversity with the only London firms near the top being private client outfits and US firms with small partnerships. All the magic circle firms score below average for associate gender diversity, averaging 49.1%. The average representation for female associates is 56.5%.

The magic circle scored above the 5.6% average for ethnic diversity at partnership level. The firms reported an average representation of 6.52%. Allen & Overy had the highest representation at 9%, while Freshfields had the lowest at 3%. Of the 105 firms surveyed, human rights firm Leigh Day scored highest for the number of female partners (65%), and ethnic diversity at partnership level (31%).

In comment, one reader reported a very senior partner at a magic circle firm announcing some time ago: “There will never be any women partners at our firm while I am here.” The reader said that glass ceiling shattered 2 years later but it is an example of an attitude that sadly still prevails with some. “The City still has a way to go to become a true meritocracy.”

In current times, when all firms are struggling to get new clients through their doors, it would surely improve their chances if they looked like they represent the views of other than middle aged white men.

The so-called glass ceiling has many facets, all capable of adjustment. When I joined the Civil Service the marriage bar was still in operation. Once a woman married she had to leave, and there were special disciplinary procedures for those who concealed marriage. This bar also applied to banks and local authorities, and it took a lot of staff association effort to remove this iniquity.

Random hoarding allowed me to dig out staff association diaries of that time which showed separate pay scales for men and women. Same grade, same work, but women were paid 20% less than men. It was a long hard slog to achieve equal pay.

As to sexism, not all that long ago ‘situations vacant’ adverts in the press for secretaries/PAs spelt out that physical attraction was at least as important as typing speeds. Unthinkable now, but another example of how the glass ceiling can be ratcheted upward as well as being ‘smashed’. It just needs constant vigilance and work.

Photo courtesy of Victor1558’s photostream

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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