IBA publishes fourth '50:50 by 2030' report, finds gender disparity in Nigerian legal profession

Study also reveals most and least popular equality initiatives across multiple jurisdictions

IBA publishes fourth '50:50 by 2030' report, finds gender disparity in Nigerian legal profession

The International Bar Association has published a new report on gender disparity in Nigeria’s legal profession to reveal that only 33% of women in the judiciary occupy senior roles and only four of the 37 attorneys-general in the country are women, despite women making up around 40% of all lawyers in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s is the fourth set of findings from the IBA’s nine-year study ‘50:50 by 2030’ following similar studies conducted in England and Wales, Spain, and Uganda. ’50:50 by 2030’ investigates the root causes of gender disparity at the top rungs of the legal profession and the impact of equality initiatives.

The IBA’s Nigeria report found that the country’s public sector had the highest representation (61%) of female lawyers in senior positions, followed by the corporate sector (55%). Law firms saw only 43% of their female lawyers holding senior roles, behind only the judiciary at 33%.

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The high representation of female lawyers in the public sector was a finding common to England and Wales, Nigeria, Spain, and Uganda, although each jurisdiction had different ratios of women in senior-level roles. Sixty-four percent of lawyers in England and Wales’s public sector were women, of which more than half (57%) held the most senior positions. Fifty-seven percent of lawyers in the public sector in Uganda were women, with 62% in senior roles. Similarly, Nigeria’s numbers revealed that 68% of lawyers in the country’s public sector were women, with 61% working in senior roles.

Spain boasted a high representation (62%) of female lawyers in the public sector but found that only 38% were in the most senior positions.

The study also surveyed the impact of equality initiatives. The numbers churned across England and Wales, Nigeria, Spain, and Uganda revealed that flexible working arrangements and coaching or mentoring programmes for women were the most popular type of initiative. In Nigeria specifically, flexible working arrangements, coaching or mentoring programmes, and leadership training were the three most popular initiatives – even if most respondents also agreed that leadership training was the least effective type of equality initiative.

Quota-setting was the least popular initiative in Nigeria.

The IBA noted in its report that neither the public sector nor the judiciary had policies in place to help women reach the top levels of their organisations. Further, only 68% of respondents said that they monitored gender representation within their organisations, while only 40% of corporate sector respondents monitored equality within senior roles.

“The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has consistently maintained the position that for us to achieve transformative change in the world, issues relating to gender equality and empowerment must be prioritised and addressed head-on,” said NBA president Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau. “We are, therefore, happy to identify with and support the IBA and LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation’s ‘50:50 by 2030’ gender project. It is an innovative and unprecedented project through which the legal profession looks inwards. It has been shown empirically that any limitation on the capacity and capability of a woman is but a product of artificial imagination which is totally unjustifiable.”

Maikyau thanked the participating organisations and members of the judiciary and urged all NBA members to study the report, learn from the data contained, and “become champions” of change.

“Furthermore, I implore all bar associations and law societies to fully support this project when the spotlight is turned towards their jurisdictions,” he said.

’50:50 by 2030’, launched by the IBA in collaboration with the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation on International Women’s Day 2021, was first conceived by IBA president and Spanish law firm Gómez-Acebo & Pombo partner Almudena Arpón de Mendívil.

“Despite … the merits and talent of so many women, we still don’t reach the most senior positions across the legal sector mainly due to discriminatory obstacles placed in our paths,” Arpón de Mendívil said at the inception of the longitudinal study. “This directly clashes with the principles defended by our profession. The legal sector cannot afford this contradiction and should lead by example. … Through the ‘50:50 by 2030’ global study, the IBA aspires to build global empirical evidence on the barriers causing the disparity in figures between women and men in senior roles and to put forward remedies to rectify the situation in line with the UN sustainable development goal on gender equality.”

The IBA’s ’50:50 by 2030’ will next release reports focusing on the legal profession in Chile, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates.

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