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Parental leave ‘kiss of death’ for female lawyers

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NZ Lawyer | 15 Oct 2014, 11:45 a.m. Agree 0
A survey has found that taking parental leave is a career-killer for women in law firms, with a shocking majority saying those who take the time out are less likely to make partner
  • John Cox | 15 Oct 2014, 01:55 p.m. Agree 0
    The career of any lawyer who takes a long period off work will suffer. This is not gender bias, as often suggested, but common sense.
  • Peter Shore | 15 Oct 2014, 02:34 p.m. Agree 0
    This is not really an issue of gender - the prime responsibility of anyone aspiring to be a partner is that they must "grow the firm". In other words they must add value (not necessarily in fee production) over and above what they are taking out (or why else would you make them a partner?). Despite advances in technology, anyone having extended leave or even working from home is usually going to face challenges to "growing the firm".
  • Duncan McKee | 15 Oct 2014, 02:39 p.m. Agree 0
    The mother who spends time at home with her husband and children is 'growing the family'. This is something that will endure for a life time not just a short term work life greed based decision
  • Katie Cowan | 20 Oct 2014, 04:07 p.m. Agree 0
    There are two kinds of gender bias (at least). One is a policy or practice that intends to favour one gender over another (eg you get fired if you get pregnant); the other is a policy or practice that appears neutral but has the effect of favouring one gender over another (eg you don't get partner if you are not at work consistently for 10 years). What we see in the way big firms are structured and the way contributions are valued is that women's progress in their careers are regularly hampered and curtailed; the effect of the structure and values of large firms disproportionately favours men. It is not malicious and it does not reflect who is better at their job; it is the result of traditional law firm culture not adapting to the different realities that fee-earners with family responsibilities (men and women) present.

    I cannot believe and do not accept that there is no way for a successful big law firm to operate effectively and create an environment that does not disproportionately favour one gender over the other. That may be how things are but we don't need to wring our hand in depair just yet.

    I wonder if offering equal parental leave to men might be a start, so as to make it clear that family responsibilities belong to both parents and that the firm expects and encourages that. A system not without its flaws, but a start maybe?
  • Graham Hill | 14 Nov 2014, 01:35 p.m. Agree 0
    Mr Cox's comment above is absolutely correct. Any illness- professional burn out etc- results in being career hobbled and knobbled. Age discrimination also kicks in. The recent Law Talk recruitment stats show a marked downward trend after 4 yrs PQE mark. If at the 8 to 10 PQE position re entry is a near impossibility. Interviews for positons are not offered. Clearly women returning to work after parental and extended parental leave are caught up in this a well.
  • John Shingleton | 18 Nov 2014, 10:53 a.m. Agree 0
    The issue is not gender imbalance or bias etc etc. That is an easy and intellectually sloppy way out. The issue is more profound and pertains to the commercial pressures of being in business on individuals and families. We are in a bizarre profession where some how there is this magic, fairytale like concept of "partnership"that is promoted as a career progression. Isnt the reality today that a partnership is first and foremost a business arrangement where several individuals invest time, money, energy and many contributions towards some common commercial goals. To be in business is a sacrifice. Not a career choice.
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