Are women paid less in the legal profession?

Are women paid less in the legal profession?

Earlier this year the UK government issued an April deadline for companies with over 250 employees to publish their pay information for men and women. The move pulled the matter firmly into the spotlight and, according to The Law Society Gazette, some of the first data revealed was from the legal profession. So, how does the legal profession fare when it comes to equal pay between men and women? Along with expert employer liability claims handlers, True Solicitors, we take a look at the issue in detail.

The data

The deadline for companies to unveil their data was 4th April 2018. 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’s pay gap

Luckily, law companies were not nearly as bad as this, but the data showed there’s still 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.

With 7,781 participants, The Law Society’s survey on women in law in 2018 was the largest international survey of its kind. 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 gap?

What is the root cause of the gender pay gap? Is it a difference in bonuses, or are higher job positions less readily available for women?

The data shows that women’s average bonus pay was 20% lower than their male colleagues at the South Yorkshire law firm previously mentioned. 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.

The survey also found that 49% of law workers think an unacceptable work/life balance in senior roles is the main cause of the gender pay gap, with women at a disadvantage if they wish to start a family. The Balance Careers notes the difference in perception — if a man starts a family, it is a note in his favour, showing stability and reliability. 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.

Senior roles

It seems that, even for those women who do achieve the status of partner, the pay gap still stands. 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.

Addressing the pay gap

To tackle the gender pay gap, the BBC offered some potential avenues. 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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