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A male champion for women in the law

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Morecrofts Partner Andrew Perrigo discusses why it’s critical for men to encourage more female leadership in the legal profession.

A report has been published by the Law Society following in depth research into the need for gender equality in the legal profession.

As a male partner in a law firm, I was invited to attend a round table discussion (one of many which contributed to the report) to talk about how we as men can champion female leadership.

It’s been an interesting journey for me, as I felt ill equipped to discuss ‘female leadership’ as a man. I shouldn’t have had those reservations as it is important that everyone contributes to this debate. It is the only way to bring about effective and much needed change. The report following our input makes for interesting reading.

Unconscious bias in the profession plays a key part in the findings.

Components of this include women ‘not fitting into the traditional image of a business leader’.

Many women also reported that assumptions made about them because of their gender have damaged their careers. It was disheartening to read in the research that in 2019 female solicitors were presumed to be the ‘tea girl’ or note taker by virtue of being the only woman in the room.
Equal pay also plays a role in the overall problem, with 60% of respondents to a survey carried out as part of the research reporting that, based on the knowledge and experience, they were aware of a gender pay gap within their organisation.

The Law Society research included as part of its wide remit the round the table discussions that I participated in. One of the points concluded from these events, was that participants explained their frustration when allocated ‘housekeeping work’ rather than ‘glory work’. One participant in a women’s round table said;

All the men in my organisation had PA support, but none of the women did. It’s not just a pay gap that disproportionally benefited the men, they were provided with extra resources too… but men are more forceful about needing to delegate and women are presumed to take it all.

Within the male round table events it was encouraging to hear male peers talking pragmatically about the issues our female counterparts face in their careers and in such an honest and candid way.
Morecrofts is seen as quite the trailblazer in gender equality, with a large majority of our leaders being female, including the last two managing partners of the firm. As well as this, 9 of the 13 partners in the firm are also women.

I strongly agree with the conclusions of this report which states that engagement and support from men is critical to achieving true diversity and inclusion in the profession.

The barriers faced by women are not always understood by male colleagues, an issue which was addressed in the men’s round table series. However, men who build awareness of barriers to women’s progression can, for example, ensure that women are being more systematically and actively included in succession plans.

On a wide scale in the legal profession, men have a crucial role to play in addressing and achieving gender balance.

It’s not about promoting someone ‘because she is a woman’ – it’s about ensuring that she has the same opportunities as her male counterparts.

I am proud to stand as a male champion for change in this area. We may not have the issue at Morecrofts – and Liverpool City Region on the whole is going in the right direction but overall, it’s up to all of us to right wrongs, speak up and give the right people the right career opportunities –regardless of gender.

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