The position of women in the workplace has improved drastically in the UK in recent years. Research on women in the workforce by Catalyst found that ‘As of June 2020, more than two-thirds (72.7%) of women aged 16–64 is employed, a percentage that has risen from 52.8% in the first quarter (January-March) of 1971, when the Office for National Statistics began recording this data. By comparison, 80.1% of men aged 16–64 is employed.’ Additionally, ‘the gender pay gap for full- and part-time workers combined in the UK fell to 17.3% in 2019—meaning that women currently make approximately 82.7% of men’s median hourly wages’. This improvement in the position of women is a real significant step forward but it is important to remember that we are not yet there in reaching full gender equality. While the percentage of women in the workforce has improved, the number of women in leadership roles remains very low with and only 5% as female (IG Group data) compared to 95% of COE’s in the FTSE 100 as male.
What is the position of women in law firms? The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) conducted research in 2019 in which 96% of law firms reported their data to them. The data was collected through a standard set of diversity questions. At a first glance the data appears very optimistic with 49% of lawyers in law firms being women. The gender disparity becomes more apparent when we look at seniority as only 34% of partners were women in 2019. While there has been an increase of 1% since 2017 and 3% since 2014, more action is needed to address this disparity. The SRA findings also show that less than 1% of people preferred to describe their gender as other than a man or women and 1% of people were transgender.
So, what can companies do to address this gender gap? Business News Daily suggests three key areas in which employers can create gender equality in the workplace. Firstly, the article suggests organisational changes such as transparent hiring, evaluation, and promotion procedures. Secondly, it discusses cultural changes, ‘companies must create a culture where employees feel a sense of belonging and acceptance’. Finally, the article explores political changes and the importance of government legislation in tackling the gender gap.
‘On this day of International Women’s Day, we should all take a moment to celebrate the progress we have made and the amazing women who now occupy much of the workforce. However, we must not become complacent and assume the work is done. The struggle for gender equality continues both in the UK and globally.’
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*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.