Six years to close gender pay gap in the law

Pay equality may be surprisingly far away, according to a recent survey, which predicted that female lawyers will not be earning the same as their male counterparts until 2021.

Women lawyers earn around 24 per cent less than their male colleagues, a study by Laurence Simons in the United Kingdom has found.

Year on year, the pay gap has fallen from 32 to 24 per cent.  If trends continue along this trajectory, the survey of more than 2,500 lawyers predicted that salary parity will not be achieved until 2021.

Yolanda Beattie, a spokesperson from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, said that such results may reflect the fact female lawyers tend to be attracted to lower paid practices than men.  She said that the Workplace Gender Equality Agency hears about men and women doing the same work being paid differently, and said the onus is on firms to find and fix those gaps.

“What we also know is that men are much more confident in negotiating. They are much more willing to negotiate but they are also rewarded more when they do,” she said.  “None of that is acceptable because there is still the fact that women don’t get paid as much as men, which is about women not having as much access to the higher earning opportunities as men do,” she said. 

“The best practice employers know that that’s not a good enough reason to continue to pay men more and instead we need to create workplaces where equality of pay based on performance and job and value should be at the heart of remuneration structures,” Beattie added.

Katherine Sampson, managing director at Mahlab said that she does not see the same pay discrepancy as was found in the UK report.  She said that in many cases, reporting doesn’t take into account that many women are choosing to work in part time roles.

“In Australia, I don’t see the same discrepancy in either the bonuses or in pay,” she said.

“In Australia, we have gender based pay disparity of 18.8 percent – that’s across all industries.  One of the reasons for such a great big discrepancy is because a number of women are employed in lower paid jobs in lower paid industries and a number of them work part time.”

Beattie added that 2021 does not seem an unrealistic timeframe in which to fix the gender pay gap in the legal profession, with more employers looking to fix any discrepancies, and more women looking to penetrate traditionally male dominated and higher paid practice areas.

“That timeframe doesn’t seem surprising because you will end up seeing so many more women disproportionately coming into the profession and rising through the ranks and employers looking to reduce the barriers they face,” she said.

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