“Support for working parents is critical to increase the number of female partners and close the gender pay gap,” says the Parental Fog Index 2021 Law Firm Report.
The Index, conducted by the Executive Coaching Consultancy, reviewed the websites of 50 top law firms and 50 US firms based in London in February 2021. After analysing data on the firms’ websites, including shared parental leave policy and flexible working, the Index made an evaluation of each organisation’s support of working parents.
The rankings range from Invisible (little online information for working parents) to Beacon (a lot of information).
Linklaters is the first law firm to have achieved Beacon status. The global firm of 5,000 employees across 21 countries introduced New Parent Leave in the UK, which allows any employee whose partner is having a baby, adopting a child or becoming a parent through surrogacy (regardless of gender or gender identity) will be offered twelve weeks’ paid leave which can be taken at any time during the first 12 months from the arrival of their child. The policy was introduced in January 2020.
Ten law firms were awarded the next status, Fully Visible, including Addleshaw Goddard, Allen & Overy, Burgees Salmon, CMS, Irwin Mitchell, Macfarlanes, Osborne Clarke, Simmons & Simmons, Taylor Wessing and Watson Farley & Williams.
“Our intention is not to name and shame employers, but rather to highlight examples of good practice and encourage discussion,” says a spokesperson from the Executive Coaching Consultancy.
“We know that many of our clients provide more support for working parents than appears on their website. For them, this report is a call to action on the question of transparency.”
At an average global law firm, more than half of junior associates are women (56 per cent). This drops to 24 per cent at partner level. Men earn more than women at all levels – despite no significant difference in billable hours.
“Female lawyers with dependent children are three times less likely than male lawyers to have a non-working spouse and half as likely to have a spouse working part-time,” quotes the Executive Coaching Consultancy’s report, suggesting this is one of the reasons why law firms are “haemorrhaging” female talent.
A previous report by McKinsey found that gender diverse teams in law firms achieve 10 per cent higher client spend. Law firms have been trying to address gender imbalance for several years with three-quarters of organisations saying that client pressure to increase gender diversity is helping to generate momentum.
“It’s not for lack of effort or investment that gender balance has flatlined across the legal sector over the past decade. During this time, many firms have increased D&I initiatives and yet progress remains stubbornly slow to retain, promote, or make up women partners at close to the same rate as men,” says the Executive Coaching Consultancy, which carried out the research by replicating the experience of a prospective job applicant searching a firm’s website to find out how the organisation offers support to working parents. A researcher was used who had no prior knowledge of what each firm offered working parents and they searched terms such as ‘commitment to working parents’, ‘maternity leave policy’, ‘paternity leave policy’ and ‘flexible working’.
For the full report, click here.