More than 40 recommendations for legal firms in order to achieve gender equality are contained in a report by the Law Society of England & Wales, published to coincide with International Women's Day.
Its findings are based on qualitative and quantitative research involving approximately 12,000 legal professionals from around the globe, through a survey to enable it to better understand the key issues that affect women working in law, followed by 225 round table discussions domestically and in 13 jurisdictions.
Men's round tables are also being held and these, along with international and impact assessments, will result in a further report later this year.
Today's report, Influencing for Impact: The need for gender equality on the legal profession, contains proposals under the headings of Unconscious bias in the profession; Remuneration, equal pay and the gender pay gap; Widespread flexible and agile working; and Further best practice in diversity and inclusion. It concludes: "From our findings, it is clear that important steps are being taken to promote equality of women in law; however, much more needs to be done. Unconscious bias, issues with remuneration and gender pay gap, and limited flexible working have been identified as the main obstacles preventing women from progressing in their careers.
"By identifying barriers, we have been able to develop key recommendations and solutions to overcome these obstacles."
In her foreword, LSEW President Christina Blacklaws writes that the research identified perceptions of unconscious bias as the main barrier for career progression, even in the form of "small behaviours which make people feel excluded".
She adds: "There are many other factors at play, and the recommendations made in this report aim to shine light on them to further advance the agenda for positive change. Legal businesses need to tackle these barriers as gender balance, ensuring equal outcomes, diversity and inclusion are critical business issues that drive productivity. Having a diverse workforce and leadership makes sound economic sense, but this is dependent on the way that legal businesses manage the diversity of their workforce."