The gender pay gap is a problem within the majority of workplaces, and a remaining issue in the legal field. It is an issue which results in woman being disadvantaged based solely on their gender. It should be noted that this pay gap is extensive in its coverage, it is not based on solely annual incomes but also covers bonuses, which woman can receive much lower in comparison to men, this is exemplified in a report produced by the Law Society which provides that in 2020 the average gap between the value of men’s and women’s bonuses was 39.4%.1 As this has proven to be a significant issue affecting woman from being disadvantaged from annual pay all the way to bonuses being affected, there have been many proposals for change such as the Women in Law Pledge which was launched in 2019. This pledge supports woman receiving equality within the legal field and strives for change, including the gender pay gap and gender equality as a whole, which consists of 8 pledges which legal organisations can sign up to, one being “ensuring aspects of pay, reward and recognition of the senior leadership are linked to delivery against these gender equality targets as applicable”, legal organisations which sign up to these pledges, in turn ensure supporting woman in the profession and sets clear plans around reaching sufficient gender pay equality.2 Despite many actions to change this unjust pay gap, issues still remain within the legal profession.
Next 100 years and Gapsquare, a pay analytics company have provided new research about closing the gender pay gap in the legal profession, analysing hourly pay rates provided by law firms. They found that the legal sector has one of the largest gender pay gaps of any industry which is currently at 25.4%.3 This figure has remained pretty much the same since 2017 and women have represented more than half of all solicitors since this year also. This is concerning as additionally the majority of new entrants to the legal profession are in fact women, yet only a small proportion are making senior roles. It is clear that something needs to be done to tackle this issue as the survey found that 84% of women did not think they would see pay equality until the next generation or beyond. This is supplemented by Next 100 years and Gapsquares estimation that it will take 86 years to close the mean gender pay gap and 40.6 years to close the median. These figures show that the gender pay gap is real and seriously demotivating for women in law.
The current position with regards to the gender pay gap is still a big issue in our society. Studies suggest that there has been some improvement over the years in reducing the gap between the pay male and females receive, however this varies from year to year. Results from the office of national statistics show that the gender pay gap has reduced by a quarter on average between all employees in the last decade, however the results from 2022 show that among full-time employees there was an increase from 7.7% in 2021 to 8.3% in 2022.4 This proves that despite a steady decline, realistically there has not been a vast improvement to decrease this pay gap.
There are recommendations for reducing this gap which consist of women doing more negotiation in terms of their pay to achieve a higher salary however it is our opinion that this is placing the blame on women and using this as a reason to explain the gender pay gap. A more reasonable solution to the problem would be for managers and CEOs of these companies to recognise the seriousness of the issue and ensure that the gender pay gap is non-existent in their companies. If every workplace put an effort in to make a reduction to the pay gap it is likely the results of a reduction would be much more convincing of change taking place. This issue is one which has been around since the beginning of time and unfortunately does not show much proof of disappearing any time soon.
Written by Rebecca Kenney, Brooke Keane and Fiza Ali