Are women still paid less in the legal sector?

September 24, 2018

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Early 2018 saw the UK government's deadline for companies to publish their pay data. Companies who employed more than 250 people were required to show the difference in pay between male and female employees. Law firms were some of the first companies to respond, says The Law Society Gazette. So, how does the legal sector measure up when it comes to the gender pay gap? Work accident solicitors True Solicitors explore the data in further detail.


4th April 2018

Companies were issued with a deadline of 4th April 2018 by the UK government. The results can be accessed here. Though it came as no surprise that the pay gap was still prevalent, the sheer scale of difference between men and women’s pay across businesses was quite alarming. The Independent reported on Ryanair’s revelation that women are paid 67% less in their company for example.


Law firms

Though not as bad, the data from law firms reveals there's a lot of room for improvement. A law firm in South Yorkshire reported that the women in their workplace earned a 15.9% less median hourly rate compared to their male counterparts. However, a London-based law firm saw their women’s median hourly rate at 37.4% lower than men’s.

7,781 participants took part in The Law Society's survey of women in law during 2018. The study found that while 60% were aware of a pay gap problem in their workplace, only 16% reported seeing anything being actively done about it. 74% of men said there was progress regarding the difference in pay between the genders, but only 48% of women agreed with that statement.


What is causing the gender pay gap?

Is it just one cause, or are there multiple factors in play when it comes to the gender pay gap? Is it a difference in bonuses, or are higher job positions less readily available for women?

The previously mentioned South Yorkshire law firm revealed a median bonus pay difference of 20% between men and women.. The London-based firm noted a 40% lower median bonus pay for women compared to men. It clear that bonuses are also suffering from the same gender discrimination as standard wages. Furthermore, in terms of job roles, The Law Society’s survey showed 49% of law workers believe that an unacceptable work/life balance is needed to reach senior roles and is to blame for the gender pay gap, so it is feasible that starting a family is deemed a disadvantage for women.

The Balance Careers attributes this to the different standards men and women are held to regarding starting a family; for a man, it is deemed as a positive comment on his character, with connotations of reliability and stability. But for a woman, having children brings an unfair stigma of unreliability, that they may put their family first. This can cause discrimination when aiming for higher roles within the firm, such as partner positions.


Higher roles in law

For women who succeeded in being promoted to the status of partner, the pay gap didn’t recede. In fact, according to The Financial Times, female partners in London-based law firms earn on average 24% less compensation than men. 34% of women earn less than £250,000, where 15% of men earn less than £250,000.


What law firms can do

The BBC set out a number of measures that can be taken to address the problem of gender pay gaps. These suggestions include:

- Better, balanced paternity leave — allowing fathers to take paternity leave, or having a shared parental leave, would allow mothers to return to work earlier. 

- Childcare support — childcare is expensive! Support for childcare expenses would help both men and women in the workplace.

- Allowing parents to work from home — the ability to work from home while raising a family would open up additional opportunities for women to balance both a career and a family.

A pay raise for female workers — a simple solution, but a pay raise for women can quickly equalise the pay rate between men and women.

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