IBA releases first report of global study on gender disparity at the most senior levels in the law

Tuesday 8 March 2022

The International Bar Association (IBA) Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU) has released its first set of findings into the lack of representation of women in senior roles across the legal profession – private practice, in-house legal teams, public sector institutions and the judiciary – in England and Wales. Overall, the England and Wales Pilot Interim Results Report reveals that women in the law make up 51 per cent of the profession, but only occupy 32 per cent of senior roles.

The public sector has the highest percentage of women lawyers overall (64 per cent), followed by corporate in-house teams (59 per cent). Fifty per cent of lawyers in law firms are female but only 31 per cent of them are in senior roles. Barristers’ chambers have the lowest percentage of women lawyers overall (32 per cent). In the judiciary, women make up 43 per cent of all judges and hold 26 per cent of senior positions.

IBA Vice-President Almudena Arpón de Mendívil, Partner at Gómez-Acebo & Pombo, Madrid, Spain commented: ‘I take the opportunity of the release of these relevant findings to express my solidarity and admiration for Ukrainian women and specially, for women lawyers, judges and all those so bravely fighting for the Rule of Law and respect for Human Rights to prevail in Ukraine despite the horror provoked by the illegal attack from Russia, which I strongly condemn.’

The Interim Report, released in collaboration with the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation (LNROLF), is part of the project 50:50 by 2030 – A Longitudinal Study into Gender Disparity in Law, which was launched a year ago on International Women’s Day 2021.  The project is at the nascent stage of a nine-year-study being conducted across 16 jurisdictions with the aim of uncovering the root causes of gender inequality at senior levels across the legal profession; identifying the barriers preventing women from reaching seniority; addressing the impact of diversity initiatives; and designing a blueprint for gender parity.

Additional findings of the Interim Report include:

  • in the public sector, 57 per cent of all lawyers in a senior role are female;
  • 95 per cent of respondents reported their workplaces have gender parity initiatives in place;
  • the three most popular gender parity initiatives are: flexible working, coaching/mentoring and unconscious bias training;
  • flexible working is the most popular gender parity initiative, with 53 per cent of respondents reporting that their flexible working initiatives are ‘very effective’; and
  • quota setting is the least popular gender parity initiative but is perceived to be ‘somewhat effective’ by 60 per cent of respondents.

The pilot study was carried out in England and Wales between May and October 2021 with 82 entities completing the survey. Two further pilots are scheduled for Spain and Uganda during 2022. Unique in its scope and depth, data from the 50:50 by 2030 A Longitudinal Study into Gender Disparity in Law will be collected and analysed over a nine-year period, allowing changes to be measured, progress tracked and global trends observed. When the pilot phase is complete, the findings will inform future research methodology and the project will be rolled out to Australia, Chile, India, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, the Netherlands, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and the United States.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here to download a PDF of the England and Wales Pilot Interim Results Report.
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  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for fair practice and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.

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