Do women get paid less in the legal profession?


Firms with over 250 employers are now required to publish their pay data to show any discrepancies between the pay rates of their male employees versus their female employees. The move has brought the gender pay gap issue firmly into the limelight – so, how did law companies measure up?

We’ve teamed up with pension claims experts True Solicitors to investigate.

Where to find the data

By the 4th April 2018, companies had to submit their gender pay gap data. 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.

How law measures up

Compared to this, law businesses didn’t have a wide gender pay gap, but improvements could still be made.  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.

In 2018, The Law Society published the results of the largest international survey of gender equality in law, with 7,781 participants.  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.

Pay, bonuses, or role?

Let’s explore what the root cause of the gap is. Is it a difference in bonuses, or are higher job positions less readily available for women?

Female employees of the previously noted South Yorkshire law firm had a bonus pay that lagged behind the bonus pay of their male colleagues’ bonus pay by an average of 20%. 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 offered a potential cause of the pay gap, with 49% noting that senior roles have a terribly unbalanced work/life ratio, which puts women at a disadvantage if they want 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.

Women in senior roles

Women who doe gain partner status, however, find the pay gap still prevails. 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.

Closing the gap

To resolve the problem of gender pay, the BBC has devised some potential solutions. 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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