16 PEOPLE | LEGAL SECTOR SUSTAINABILITY INSIGHT 2018 GENDER EQUALITY Social inequality of different groups is nothing new in Australia or across the globe. In Australia the gender equality movement commenced by the Victorian Suffrage Society was preceded by the first female trade union, the Tailoresses’ Association of Melbourne, who pursued greater workplace rights for women from 1882. Comparing contemporary Australian gender equality against these historical benchmarks of the twentieth century or of those of other cultures, skims over the fact the women like many other groups still do not enjoy the same resources, opportunities, rewards or security as traditionally powerful groups. In fact in 2017, Australia slipped to a 35th international ranking in gender equality from a high point of 15th in 2006 (global index measuring gender equality). Improving gender equality builds stronger societies, economies, businesses and individuals. It boosts the productivity and performance of organisations and the economy. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has documented a range of organisational benefits and gender equality and the Grattan Institute has calculated that removing barriers for women to enter the workforce would increase the Australian economy by about $25 billion per year. There have been improvements; between 2009 and 2017 the number of women on the Boards of ASX-listed companies grew from 8.3 to 26.2% in 2017. In the legal sector leadership for gender equality has been strong with state law societies and law firms supporting the Law Council of Australia’s commitments, targets and programs including the Diversity and Equality Charter and Equitable Briefing Policy. The 2016 National Profile of the Profession in Australia revealed that female solicitors make up 35,799 or 50.1% of the legal profession. The Law Society of NSW Chief Executive Officer, Michael Tidball, said ‘the growth in number of female lawyers emphasised the need for law firms and law societies to increase their efforts and strategies to boost the number of women in leadership positions’. An Australian Financial Review partnership survey conducted since the 2016 National Profile, has found that two-thirds of the 128 new partners appointed at the nation’s larger law firms were women. The Law Council is committed to taking measures that ensure a level playing field for all members of the Australian legal profession. A major step towards this goal is the development of a National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy, which briefing entities now have the opportunity to adopt. The Policy includes interim and long-term targets with the objective of briefing women in at least thirty percent of all matters and paying thirty percent of the value of all brief fees by 2020. The WorkPlace Gender Equality Authority collects and provides annual data on a range of gender equality issues. The latest data shows that the Australian Legal sector performs strongly against similar industry sectors and Australian Industry in gender related commitment and performance. Comparison of Gender Equality Performance AusLSA Members Total Legal Services All Professional Services Accounting Services Aust Industry Policy 91% 60% 58% 47% 54% Targets 64% 75% 16% 36% 36% Female Management Promotions Not measured 66% 44% 46% 47% Composition Key Management/General Manager 33% 33% 30% 15% 30% Composition Lawyers and Professionals 59% 63% 42% 50% 53% Gender Pay Gap (professionals) Not measured 12% 18% 3% 17% Source: WGEA Data Explorer 0 5 10 15 20 Pay Equity Ambassador Training: Gender bias & inclusion Employer of Choice for Gender Equity Mentoring & Coaching Program Male Champions of Change Diversity Council of Australia External forums & programs: Leadership & participation Structured firm women advancement & support programs FORMAL POLICY POLICY PUBLISHED INITIATIVES 10% 41% 90% 59% No No Yes Yes POLICY PUBLISHED Number of firms