Nigeria: New IBA report focused on gender disparity in the legal profession is published

Wednesday 12 April 2023

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A new report from the International Bar Association (IBA) Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU), focused on gender disparity in Nigeria’s legal profession, reveals a dearth of women in senior positions in the judiciary with only 33 per cent occupying senior roles. Furthermore, the report reveals that, currently, only four out of 37 attorneys-general in the country are female.

According to the data accumulated for the 50:50 by 2030: A longitudinal study into gender disparity in law – NIGERIA RESULTS REPORT, women make up approximately 40 per cent of all lawyers in Nigeria. The country’s public sector has the highest representation of women in senior positions, with 61 per cent of practitioners being female, followed by the corporate sector, with 55 per cent. Law firms have the second lowest number of women in senior roles (43 per cent), behind the judiciary (33 per cent).

Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, OON, SAN, President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), commented: ‘The NBA has consistently maintained the position that for us to achieve transformative change in the world, issues relating to gender equality and empowerment must be prioritised and addressed head-on. We are, therefore, happy to identify with and support the IBA and LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation’s “50:50 by 2030” Gender Project. It is an innovative and unprecedented project through which the legal profession looks inwards. It has been shown empirically that any limitation on the capacity and capability of a woman is but a product of artificial imagination which is totally unjustifiable.’

He continued: ‘I wish to thank all participating law firms, corporate organisations, public sector organisations and members of the judiciary who supported this project in Nigeria. I urge all NBA members to study the report when it is published, learn from the data contained within, and become champions of the change we want to see in our nation. Furthermore, I implore all bar associations and law societies to fully support this project when the spotlight is turned towards their jurisdictions.’

Additional findings from the Nigeria report include:

  • the three most popular gender equality initiatives are coaching and mentoring programmes, flexible working arrangements and leadership training for women;
  • the public sector and the judiciary do not have any specific policies or initiatives in place to push women to the top of their organisations;
  • the least popular initiative is quota setting, and leadership training was considered by respondents to be the least effective;
  • only 68 per cent of respondents said that they monitor gender representation overall and at a senior level; and
  • only 40 per cent of corporate sector respondents monitor gender balance within senior roles.

Titilola Akinlawon, SAN, FCTI, Founding Partner at Akinlawon & Ajomo, commented: ‘The “50:50 by 2030” project’s most recent report on Nigeria finds that only 33 per cent of senior judges are female, and in both the judiciary and the public sector there are no initiatives in place to help women reach the top in their careers. This project will gather data from across all sectors of the profession, and across 16 jurisdictions, with the aim of identifying the root causes of gender inequality, tracking progress over time, and providing practical conclusions and guidance. The profession needs a balanced voice – it’s time for change.’

The Nigeria report marks the fourth set of findings from the IBA’s 50:50 by 2030 – A Longitudinal Study into Gender Disparity in Law project, released in collaboration with the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation (LNROLF) on International Women’s Day 2021. The first report, considering the legal profession in England and Wales, was released in March 2022 with further reports on Uganda and Spain published in August and December 2022, respectively.

One notable trend across England and Wales, Nigeria, Spain and Uganda is the high representation of female lawyers in the public sector. In England and Wales, 64 per cent of lawyers in the public sector are women, of which 57 per cent hold the most senior positions. Similarly, in Uganda, 57 per cent of lawyers in the public sector are female, with 62 per cent represented at a senior level. In the Spanish legal profession, 62 per cent of lawyers across the public sector are female, although in this jurisdiction, only 38 per cent are in the most senior positions. A similar trend is also observed in the Nigerian legal profession, with 68 per cent of female lawyers represented in the public sector and 61 per cent working in senior roles. In terms of initiatives, flexible working arrangements, and coaching and mentoring programmes for women are the most popular across all four jurisdictions.

The nine-year global project, launched in 2021, was conceived by Almudena Arpón de Mendívil, IBA President and a partner at law firm Gómez-Acebo & Pombo in Madrid, Spain, who stated at its inception: ‘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 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 in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality. We are committed to developing solutions that will bring about lasting change to reflect the broader profession and society as a whole.’

Legal professionals in Chile, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates are to be surveyed next.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here to download a PDF of 50:50 by 2030: A longitudinal study into gender disparity in law – NIGERIA RESULTS REPORT.
  2. The IBA’s 50:50 by 2030 – A Longitudinal Study into Gender Disparity in Law project is a nine-year global study aiming to uncover the root causes of gender disparity at the top of the legal profession, to examine the impact of equality initiatives and to produce a blueprint for gender equality at all levels.

  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 the administration of justice, 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.

  4. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

  5. Find the IBA and IBAHRI on social media here:
    IBA (@IBAnews)


For further information, please contact:

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