A top-tier New Zealand law firm has made history by becoming the first firm in the country to receive a YWCA Equal Pay Award
The firm was given the Silver Distinguished award, which among other things recognises that the firm has implemented a range of diagnostic tools, processes and systems to draw insight regarding equal pay within the organisation, and initiatives that have been implemented have been communicated within the organisation.
Sky City was the other Silver award recipient, while Westpac won the Gold Champion award and BNZ snapped up the Bronze Emerging award.
Simpson Grierson’s HR director Jo Copeland told NZ Lawyer that the law firm even received a special mention during the ceremony.
“They singled us out and said that all the other companies [nominated] were large publicly listed companies,” she says. “It was so inspiring. The Human Rights Commission was there, alongside all the big corporates. It was fabulous.”
Copeland says it was vital for a law firm to be recognised, because the legal profession is well behind its corporate counterparts in promoting women to the most senior levels.
“If we are going to make real progress it is important for women to know that they are being paid the same as their male counterparts. It doesn't solve the broader issue but it is an important link in the chain,” she says.
Furthermore, Copeland points out that there is no place for inequality in a profession that is founded on the principle of natural justice.
If the clients are moving rapidly towards pay equality, the law firms should be matching them, she says.
“We really just want to be leading in diversity: It’s important to us, and given that we’ve got so many women working for us particularly at that senior level, it’s important that they know they’re paid the equivalent of men,” Copeland says.
As well as equal pay, Simpson Grierson has done extensive work to implement gender and cultural diversity into its lifeblood and culture.
The firm is also about to become the first-ever New Zealand recipient of the Rainbow Tick, which recognises those that support LGBTI employees and have procedures in place to handle cases of harassment, adequate staff support and show they engage with the community outside of the workplace.
“We’re a parity partnership so equality and parity are cornerstones of the business and go right up to the partnership level. Because we have that philosophy, I think that’s why the partners and the board care so much about equal pay,” says Copeland. “Ultimately, [the Silver Distinguished award win] is fantastic for the legal fraternity because we’re seen as leaders in the business space.”