I feel the need to write in about the article "Purpose-driven women" (Journal, August 2015, 24), with the subheading "five things women can do to improve their prospects". It comes hot on the heels of the announcement that there is currently a 42% gender pay gap in favour of men in this profession.
It would appear from the article that these depressing and frankly embarrassing figures can be solved by women themselves changing their behaviour. The writer points to a colleague who has set up her own law firm focusing on clean energy and her own experience of diversifying into mediation. While these women are admirable in taking control of their careers like this, I suspect that the majority of female practitioners have neither the time nor the financial security to set up a law firm from scratch when they realise they are not being rewarded in the same way as their male colleagues.
I have a huge amount of respect for people who decide their professional ambitions cannot be realised in their current roles and and the only solution is to strike out on their own. Framing this in terms of the gender pay gap, however, that you can decide your salary and get the top positions but not within the current structure, is flawed. I don't think it is asking too much to expect that when you join this profession, you will have access to the same promotional opportunities, same salary and benefits as your male colleagues.
The article contains some good advice. Having a network of like minded colleagues to act as a support system is invaluable; recognising your skill and ability is essential. However, the impetus for changing a professional environment that is not rewarding female members in the same way as men should not fall to female practitioners. The gap does not exist because women aren't doing enough for themselves. I think it is time for the profession to have an open and frank conversation about how good work and success are measured, how the markers for promotion are applied to the two sexes, how the impact of caring and family responsibilities is viewed, and what can be done by the profession as a whole to address the figures reported.
Leaning into a system that works to your disadvantage isn't the answer. Changing the system is.Eleanor Mannion, Renfrewshire Council