Moderate improvements in gender equality in the practice of law in 2021, reports New Zealand Law Society – JURIST

The New Zealand Law Society released the results of its Gender Equality Charter on Thursday, reporting on how gender equality has evolved in New Zealand’s legal workplaces over the past year. The most notable improvements included a 35% increase in unconscious bias training and a 14% increase in flexible working availability for all attorneys. However, gender parity in senior positions remains distant and the study found an increase of almost 0% in the number of women in senior positions in 2021.

The charter was first published in 2018 and is currently signed by 158 legal workplaces. This was a baseline survey that workplaces completed to establish baseline statistics regarding the current state of gender equality in New Zealand. The companies that have signed the charter have then committed to implementing a set of commitments to fight against inequalities between women and men. The service was to be resumed in 2020 but, due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the follow-up service was conducted between July and November 2021. In the time between surveys, signatory workplaces have taken steps to stay online. with the charter. Workplaces are committed to:

  • Implement unconscious bias training for all attorneys and key staff and take steps to address identified biases
  • Offer, encourage and support flexible working to help all lawyers balance their professional and personal responsibilities
  • Conduct annual gender pay audits and take action to close any gender pay gaps
  • Regularly review Signatories’ areas of practice from a gender equality and inclusion perspective, e.g. recruitment, retention and promotion practices
  • Adopt fair information and instruction practices

The results demonstrated an increase in methods used to address gender inequality, changes that led to greater awareness of gender inequality issues in the workplace, and a reported increase in sentiment empowerment of women lawyers. The gender imbalance observed in the upper echelons of the legal world has been highlighted as an area for improvement for the future by the Law Society.

The Law Society’s Executive Director of Member Services, Glenda Mcdonald, said: “Although more than 50% of those entering the profession are women, this percentage is not represented by the number of people who end up in leadership positions. The Law Society will continue to “assess where continued action is needed” and hopes to increase the number of charter signatories.

Jon J. Epps