The New Zealand Law Society’s Gender Equality Charter was launched last week at Parliament in an event in the Grand Hall hosted by Minister for Women Julie-Anne Genter.
Developed by the peak lawyer body’s Women’s Advisory Panel, the charter features nine tasks that signatories must commit to completing in the next two years. The charter tackles why women in the country’s legal profession are so far behind men in the senior ranks. It aims to improve retention and advancement of women lawyers.
A recent Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) and McLeod Duminy study found that while the number of women equity partners has increased in the last 12 month, gender imbalance still persists at the top of New Zealand law firms. This is despite women being the majority of staff members.
Earlier this year, the Law Society announced that women have become the majority of practicing lawyers in the country. The Law Society said that just 31% of law firms with more than one practitioner are women. Of Queen’s Counsel appointments since 1907, 273 have been men, of whom 100 are still in practice, while 34 have been women, of whom 23 are still in practice.
Signatories of the charter must appoint a senior-level individual, who will be responsible for meeting commitments made under the charter. These organisations must also:
- implement unconscious-bias training for all lawyers and key staff and take action to address identified bias;
- conduct annual gender pay audits and take action to close any gender pay gap;
- encourage and support flexible working to assist all lawyers to balance professional and personal responsibilities;
- regularly review areas of their practice with a gender equality and inclusion lens (e.g. recruitment, retention and promotion practices);
- adopt equitable briefing and instruction practices;
- actively work to increase gender equality and inclusion in senior legal roles;
- collect and share with the New Zealand Law Society examples of practical approaches to gender equality and inclusion that make a real difference; and
- report on progress against charter commitments every two years to the New Zealand Law Society.