Difference in Men and Women’s Pay in The Legal Sector

The problem of inequality in pay seems to finally be gaining some form of address, thanks to the government requirement outlined earlier this year. The requirement meant firms with more than 250 employees had to submit data and publish data relating to their pay differences between men and women working for them.

Among the first to impart this data was law firms, according to The Law Society Gazette. did this keenness to show their pay data mean law firms were doing well on this front? Accident at work claims specialists True Solicitors, explores the matter further…

Lawyers discussing legal matters

The deadline

The deadline was 4th April 2018. The results can be accessed here. Though it came as no surprise that the pay gap was still prevalent, the sheer scale of difference between men and women’s pay across businesses was quite alarming. The Independent reported on Ryanair’s revelation that women are paid 67% less in their company for example.

Law’s pay gap

While the initial data submitted by law firms didn’t look as bad, the gender pay gap was still present. A law firm in South Yorkshire reported that the women in their workplace earned a 15.9% less median hourly rate compared to their male counterparts. However, a London-based law firm saw their women’s median hourly rate at 37.4% lower than men’s.

And what do the workers themselves think? The Law Society conducted the largest international survey of women in law in 2018, with 7,781 participants. The study found that while 60% were aware of a pay gap problem in their workplace, only 16% reported seeing anything being actively done about it. 74% of men said there was progress regarding the difference in pay between the genders, but only 48% of women agreed with that statement.

What is causing the gap?

We need to look deeper into the issue to find the cause. Is it a difference in bonuses, or are higher job positions less readily available for women? Looking at the same data previously referred to, the South Yorkshire law firm reported that women’s median bonus pay was 20% lower than men’s. The London-based firm noted a 40% lower median bonus pay for women compared to men. It clear that bonuses are also suffering from the same gender discrimination as standard wages.

What about the roles themselves? In terms of job roles, The Law Society’s survey showed 49% of law workers believe that an unacceptable work/life balance is needed to reach senior roles and is to blame for the gender pay gap, so it is feasible that starting a family is deemed a disadvantage for women. The Balance Careers notes the difference in perception too — if a man starts a family, it is a note in his favour, showing stability and reliability. But for a woman, having children brings an unfair stigma of unreliability, that they may put their family first. This can cause discrimination when aiming for higher roles within the firm, such as partner positions.

Partner status

Sadly, it seems for women who do manage to get partner status, the pay gap remains. In fact, according to The Financial Times, female partners in London-based law firms earn on average 24% less compensation than men. 34% of women earn less than £250,000, where 15% of men earn less than £250,000.

Gender-related pay inequality

Ways to address the matter

What can companies do to begin to address the problem? The BBC offered a variety of suggestions for businesses in general in order to close the gender pay gap. These suggestions include:

  • Better, balanced paternity leave — allowing fathers to take paternity leave, or having a shared parental leave, would allow mothers to return to work earlier.
  • Childcare support — childcare is expensive! Support for childcare expenses would help both men and women in the workplace.
  • Allowing parents to work from home — the ability to work from home while raising a family would open up additional opportunities for women to balance both a career and a family.
  • A pay raise for female workers — a simple solution, but a pay raise for women can quickly equalise the pay rate between men and women.