The number of women equity partners has grown over the last year, but gender imbalance still persists at the most senior ranks of New Zealand law firms.
Data from the latest “NZ Legal Industry Salary and HR Issues Survey” by the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) and McLeod Duminy showed that the ranks of women equity partners increased to 23%, up four percentage points from the last survey. The number of women non-equity partners was flat at 43%.
This is despite the fact that 71% of all staff in New Zealand Law firms are women. A majority of solicitors and lawyers are women (62%), while even more women fill legal executive roles (94%), the survey found. It also showed that 100% of secretarial support positions are filled by women, who also make up 94% of office administrative support staff members.
“While there has been some positive movement, it does seem that the partner gender imbalance is entrenched across the industry and firms must do more to address this,” said Sheryll Carey, ALPMA NZ chair and general manager at Lowndes Jordan. “Given the number of women in the industry and the need to retain them, firms need to embrace more family-friendly benefits and policies and use these to gain strategic advantage in the employment market.”
“While flexible work arrangements are on the rise, the research show that only 19% of firms offer parental leave entitlements over and above the government scheme, which is a real missed opportunity,” she said.
Small firms of one to 25 people fared best among law firms in the country in terms of the gender balance at the highest ranks, with partnerships averaging 28%. Medium-sized firms (25 to 74 employees) and large law firms (75 or more employees) had equity partnership that averaged 20% women.
The survey also found that most firms plan to increase pay this year.