Tag Archives: Work Life Balance

Female Barristers Still Face Sexism

workplace sexism

A new report has highlighted high levels of sexism that women continue to face at the bar. Problems female barristers have to contend with, according to the report from the Bar Council, include inappropriate behaviour from their male colleagues and feeling pressured into pursuing “traditional” areas of practice for their gender.

The report, titled Snapshot: the experience of self-employed women at the bar, also highlighted the difficulty female barristers have in successfully balancing their career and their childcare requirements.

Some of the most prevalent problems they face, however, stem from the attitudes and behaviour of their male peers. While many respondents agreed that things were worse in this regard in the past, the attitudes of older generations of male barristers continue to influence their younger counterparts and sexism remains a serious problem. One respondent described how this kind of attitude “carries through the generations, junior silk to judge,” while another said that many male barristers seem to believe they are “existing in a children’s playground.” The latter went on to describe a habit among these barristers of saying “grossly disrespectful things because nobody is going to stop them.”

Partly as a result of these kinds of sexist attitudes, many women describe being pressured into pursuing areas of practice seen as traditionally more appropriate for women, mainly family law or sexual crime. One respondent described being openly told, upon mentioning her intention to pursue a career in criminal law to a male sponsor, “you’ve got no hope, all women have to do family law.”

Another described her experiences of being pressured into pursuing a career in sexual crime as a result of being “pigeon-holed” on account of her gender. She described how the combination of the stress that goes with a career in the law and the need to deal with women who had been through the traumatic experience of rape proved detrimental to her wellbeing.

Regarding issues of childcare, the report described how some chambers are supportive of women taking maternity leave but others try to discourage them from part time work. Issues like this, the report concluded, are forcing some women to leave their careers at the bar after becoming mothers.

Bar Council chair Alistair MacDonald QC said in response to the report “While there is clearly no problem in attracting women to the bar, with women and men joining the bar in equal numbers, the report identifies a number of new and significant challenges experienced by women working within the profession.” He also noted that “while most of the examples of sexism, harassment and discrimination quoted in the report are historical,” such behaviour is still a challenge that women at the bar must face.

For further information on sexual discrimination in the workplace, visit http://www.employmentsolicitors.co/discrimination-claims/sexual-discrimination/.

Male Lawyers Over 25 Earn More than Female Counterparts

Female Lawyer

Concerns about a pay gap within the legal industry have been raised following the release of research by Eversheds, a global legal firm. Over the age of 25, female lawyers earn significantly less than their male counterparts.

Interestingly, female lawyers under the age of 25 actually earn more than their male contemporaries. However, this is quickly reversed, and after the age of 25 takes the form of a more conventional pay gap with men earning more than their female contemporaries.

Over the age of 25, female lawyers earn 11% less than men. By the time they reach their mid-30s, they earn a full 25% less than their male colleagues in the same age group. This has led to fresh concerns about whether the legal industry is doing enough to support female talent, and to retain skilled women within the industry.

The same research examined the long-term career plans of lawyers. This aspect of the study revealed that only 34% of women intend to stay in a law firm for their remaining career, and only 57% aspire to become a partner in a law firm.

It is possible that this pay gap contributes to the lack of satisfaction among female lawyers with their profession. However, it is worth noting that the study also found men were dissatisfied with the legal profession, albeit to a lesser extent.

Reasons for dissatisfaction with the legal profession for both genders include unrealistically long working hours and a resulting poor work/life balance. Many lawyers stated an intention to become established enough within the legal field to seek an in-house role. This is generally considered an option that offers greater flexibility, more manageable hours, and a better work/life balance than working within a law firm.

Indeed, working hours seem to be a key concern that keeps people of both genders from aspiring towards a partnership. Trainees have to put in long hours, but there is a general feeling that this should give way later in your career and that former trainees should be rewarded for their work with more manageable hours. Instead, however, there is a general feeling that becoming a partner involves losing most of your free time to work.

The lack of flexibility and poor work/life balance is heightened for women by the industry’s lack of flexibility regarding childcare. This has led many women within the industry to find that, in spite of promises to the contrary, the idea of continuing to work on a suitably flexible basis after giving birth is difficult or impossible to achieve.