Law society sees double-digit improvement in gender equality

Survey finds increases in unconscious bias training, use of gender pay audits, more

Law society sees double-digit improvement in gender equality

Law firms across New Zealand are making "significant progress" in improving gender equality in their workplaces, according to the latest Gender Equality Charter survey by the New Zealand Law Society (Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa).

The charter, first launched in 2018, aims to improve retention and advancement of female lawyers and sets out a series of gender equality commitments for legal workplace signatories to implement.

In its 2022 findings, the law society found a 35% increase in the delivery of unconscious bias training, a 14% increase in availability of flexible working to all lawyers, and a 25% increase in the use of gender pay audits.

"Right across the board in areas like the delivery of unconscious bias training, the use of gender pay audits, and the availability of flexible working, signatories to the Gender Equality Charter have made significant progress," said Glenda Macdonald, spokeswoman for the law society.

The New Zealand Law Society survey also found:

  • a 24% increase in review of retention and promotion practices
  • a 17% increase in training and development opportunities
  • a 13% increase in gender equality practices across different teams
  • and a 11% increase in gender equality in senior roles

The survey was conducted between July and November 2021.

"While there is still more work to do, the Gender Equality Charter is making a difference that ensures law firms work towards improving the retention and advancement of women lawyers," Macdonald said.

The law society is now raising from 30% to 50% its target for the amount of work which law firms are engaging in or instructing to be assigned to women.

"Increasing the original target for instructing women lawyers from 30% to 50% is more aspirational and reflects our aim at continuing to set our sights higher," Macdonald said. "Other changes will make it easier for signatories to see the detail of the commitments all in one place."

As of June 2021, 158 legal workplaces across New Zealand have signed the Gender Equality Charter. The society is urging more firms to join.

"Ensuring that progress is tracked will increase the usefulness of the data that is collected and help the Law Society assess where continued action is needed," Macdonald said.

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