The New Zealand Law Society Thursday released the results of their Gender Equality Charter, reporting on developments in gender equality among legal workplaces in New Zealand in the past year. The most notable improvements included a 35 per cent increase in the delivery of unconcious bias training and a 14 per cent increase in the availability of flexible working to all lawyers. However, gender parity in higher roles remains distant, and the study found an almost 0 per cent increase in woman in senior roles in 2021.
The charter was first issued in 2018 and is currently signed by 158 legal workplaces. It consisted of a baseline survey that workplaces completed to establish baseline statistics in regard to the current state of gender equality in New Zealand. Workplaces who signed the charter then pledged to implement a set of commitments to combat gender inequality. The servey was set to be reapted in 2020 but, due to the dealy of the COVID-19 pandemic, the follow up servey was conducted between July and November 2021. In the time frame between surveys, the signatory workplaces took steps to keep in line with the charter. The workplaces committed to:
- Implement unconscious bias training for all lawyers and key staff and take action to address identified bias
- Offer, encourage and support flexible working to assist all lawyers to balance professional and personal responsibilities
- Conduct annual gender pay audits and take action to close any gender pay gap
- Regularly review areas of signatories’ practice with a gender equality and inclusion lens e.g recruitment, retention and promotion practices
- Adopt equitable briefing and instruction practices
The results demonstrated an increase in methods taken to combat gender inequality, changes which led to a higher awareness of gender inequality issues among workplaces and a reported increase of female lawyers feeling empowered. The gender imbalance seen in the upper echelons of the legal world was highlighted as an area of improvement for the future by the Law Society.
General Manager of Member Services for the Law Society Glenda Mcdonald commented, “While more than 50 per cent of those who enter the profession are women, this percentage is not represented by the number of people who eventually go on to hold senior positions.” The Law Society will continue to “assess where continued action is needed” and hopes to increase the signatories to the charter.