An ambitious project to uncover the root causes of the lack of gender parity at the most senior levels of the legal profession has been launched by the International Bar Association (IBA) to mark International Women’s Day 2021.

 Running for the rest of the present decade, the project sets out to identify whether diversity initiatives introduced to address this disparity are having any impact, and provide practical conclusions and guidance to the profession.

Its overarching goal of the project is to provide a blueprint by 2030 for achieving gender parity in the highest levels of private practice, in-house positions, the public sector, and the judiciary. 

Titled “50/50 by 2030” – a reference to the aspiration of the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No 5 on gender equality – the project is supported by the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation.

Research will be undertaken across 15 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America to identify the barriers to, and track the progress of, realising equal representation of women in senior legal roles. 

The study – with data collection and analysis in 2021, 2024, 2027 and 2030 – will be the first to provide global information from law firms, bar associations, law societies, government, public prosecution, in-house lawyers, and the judiciary over an extended period. The compiled and detailed information on measures enacted towards gender equality and the tracking of their impact will provide important insight into how the profession is, or is not, changing.

IBA President Sternford Moyo commented: “We need a global legal profession that not only understands and appreciates the need for diversity and gender equality but will take action to ensure their realisation. We cannot continue to have so few eminently qualified and capable women [achieve] parity in senior roles. I have made understanding and effecting change in these areas priorities of my presidency of the IBA.  So, I am delighted by the launch of this important, long-term project and for the committed technological, analytical and employee support from longstanding partners LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation.”

Vice President Almudena Arpón de Mendívil added: “Despite good intentions, despite the merits and talent of so many women, we still don’t reach the most senior positions across the legal sector, mainly due to discriminatory obstacles placed in our paths. This directly clashes with the principles defended by our profession. The legal sector cannot afford this contradiction and should lead by example. With the benefit of raised general awareness around discrimination, it is time for increased action. Through the '50/50 by 2030' global study announced today, the IBA aspires to build global empirical evidence on the barriers causing the disparity in figures between women and men in senior roles and to put forward remedies to rectify the situation.”

The project is being led by the IBA's Legal Policy & Research Unit and its Diversity & Inclusion Council, with support and input from the IBA Women Lawyers' Interest Group.