Forty two per cent of new law firm partners in 2018 are female, according to a survey of firms by the Australian Financial Review that’s been published today.
While the number is still a fair way off fifty percent – despite the fact there is absolutely no shortage of women in law firms – it’s still a huge improvement.
The new female appointment figure is up almost ten per cent from last year, when the AFR reported that 33% of new partner appointments were female.
But such an appointment rate is still going to take a long time to meaningfully shift the proportion of female partners overall. Even with these new appointments, just 27.4 per cent of partners at the 54 law firms surveyed are female — up from 27.1 per cent in July.
And only one firm that was surveyed has a partnership that’s at least fifty per cent female: Banki Haddock Fiora, where six of the 11 partners are female.
This is not a male-dominated profession. It’s one where the pipeline of women available with the potential and talent to step into leadership is wide at the graduate level and well into the senior associate level.
What appears to be working for law firms is targets. So much so, that some firms have told the AFR they will now move on to set more ambitious targets.
Targets give a purpose and reason for getting serious about improving a culture in order to attain and retain the best possible talent. They present a purpose and a marker of success for achieving change. They help underpin the real need for workplace flexibility, for strong parental leave entitlements,, for supporting new parents, for addressing cultural issues and problems that are potentially standing in the way of women from getting ahead.
In law, real progress for women has been a long time coming. But a ten per cent increase in the number of female partners appointed offers something to celebrate.
Now for another ten percent increase in 2019.