In recent years Australian organisations have increasingly recognised the need to promote gender diversity within their senior ranks. However, many organisations are finding that identifying the best path and implementing the practical steps required to achieve this goal presents significant challenges.
Through #TRChangeMakers, Thomson Reuters is seeking to highlight and address the institutional and practical challenges on the road to gender diversity in senior leadership positions.
As a traditionally male-dominated industry, the law profession is making significant inroads into promoting gender diversity and equality. The debate has moved beyond questions of why it’s important to have an equal mix of men and women in the workplace, and towards how to achieve that balanced-gender dynamic.
- Claire Bibby, General Counsel, Non Executive Director, Author and Speaker;
- Ashley Johnson, Senior Legal Counsel, Medibank Private Limited; and
- Debra Counsell, Chief Legal Officer and Company Secretary, BlueScope Steel Limited.
Speaking at the event, Jackie Rhodes, Managing Director, Thomson Reuters Legal (Australia and New Zealand), said, “I strongly believe in sponsoring female talent. It provides women with the best possible boost to their career trajectory because it includes senior leaders, behind the scenes, rallying and advocating for female talent, and ensuring visibility and exposure.
“Mentoring has a place but can sometimes end up focusing on what’s wrong and what needs to be improved rather than actively advocating for female talent and providing practical career opportunities. I also believe female leaders have a responsibility to pay it forward to ensure that the women that come after them are afforded appropriate opportunity and support”.
According to the Women Lawyers’ Association of NSW, average female partnership representation in Australia currently sits at 25 per cent, with the equity partner average dropping to 18 per cent. In practical terms, to see sustained improvement in gender diversity, firms will need to focus on making sure female partners and up and coming talented females are retained and promoted to leadership roles.
Thomson Reuters partnered with global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company to release a new report called Women in law firms. While it focused on large law firms in North America, the results mirrored those seen in Australia.
Jackie Rhodes said, “An obvious way to improve female participation at senior levels in law firms is to support parental leave. In the US, an overwhelming majority of the law firms surveyed offer maternity and paternity leave that well exceeds US government requirements, as well as offering part-time work options.
“But more than 70 per cent of the lawyers surveyed said they feared the consequences of taking advantage of such programs. This makes it clear that simply having family-friendly policies isn’t enough; leaders must actively promote the take-up of these initiatives and set a culture that genuinely supports women and men through major life transitions such as having a child”.