Having run our annual employment survey for several years now, the results can begin to follow something of a pattern. Nevertheless, it is possible to spot potentially interesting trends emerging; and there always seem to be interesting little nuggets waiting to be uncovered. Usually, too, some topical development has emerged that is worth reflecting in an addition to our questionnaire. This year has been no exception.
As for trends, there is some evidence, as we report in our lead feature, of a narrowing of the gender pay gap at more senior levels, where it had previously been most noticeable. But at the same time some size of gap still seems to develop from early stages after qualification, certainly before most solicitors have any family commitments that might affect their career paths, and why this should be is not clear. Hopefully if the Society repeats its Profile of the Profession survey in 2018, as planned (see p 46), this can be explored.
One nugget that we spotted this time is the difference between the proportions of men and women who continue working full time after starting a family, with men being up to three times as likely to do so. While not really surprising, it bears out the wisdom that true career equality will not arrive as long as women are expected to be principal carers.
This year’s new topic for the survey was sexual harassment, which suddenly became an issue in most walks of life a couple of months ago. We felt it almost incumbent on the Journal to try to uncover what size of a problem it has been in the profession, and at least one respondent expressly thanked us for that.
In short, although a majority of both men and women have neither experienced sexual harassment nor heard of it happening, more than a fifth of women (and a smaller number of men) have been the target of unwanted conduct, and even more know of others who have. That must come as a wakeup call both to employers, to try to reassure their staff that if concerns are raised they will be considered seriously and sensitively, and to all individuals, to ask themselves, as certain public figures have had to, whether their past conduct might have involved incidents that went beyond the bounds of acceptable behaviour.
Beyond that, the survey shows a profession that – with exceptions – regards its prospects not much differently from a year ago, which is to say neither improving nor getting very much worse. There will be many causes of uncertainty over the next year, so we hope that for all of you the festive period at least brings its measure of good cheer. Happy Christmas.