Women in law: what needs to change

Women in law: what needs to change

Why are there so few women at the top of the legal profession? Just one in five partners in top-20 firms is a woman, and just eight hold senior management roles in the top 50 firms, despite the fact that more women enter the profession than men. FLUX asked four senior lawyers for their take on the challenges and solutions.

Janet Legrand

Partner, DLA Piper

Janet Legrand was the first woman to be elected to the DLA Piper board, as well as the first woman in any leadership position in the global firm. She was senior partner and chairman of the firm’s board from 2009-12.

The lightbulb moment for me was, as a senior partner at the firm, reading the McKinsey Women Matter research in 2007. The basic thesis was that companies that have two or more women on their board or at senior executive level were empirically more successful. It also observed that if you put the same job description to a man and a woman equally well-qualified for a role, the chances are the woman would look at it and think: "I don’t know if I can do that." Whereas a man would be thinking: "I can do that, but the money isn’t good enough."

One would have thought that by the time we reached 2015 things would be rather different – but they are not. We have now reached a stage where women have recognised that this is not where they want to be. The way that firms are organised was established a long time ago, and the status quo works for a large chunk of people. It takes effort to intervene through structural changes to try and change the way things have always been.

But taking control of your own career is important. When you’re at a school, you work very hard, you get good results and people tell you you’re doing very well. There is cause and effect. In the world of work there can be a tendency

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