Tackling gender inequality

By Sara Albert February 21, 201821 February 2018

Tackling gender inequality

 

What are successful male leaders across the world doing to tackle gender inequality? A recent report by HeForShe intended to discover exactly that. Released in late 2017, the IMPACT 10x10x10 Gender Parity Report examines the successes, challenges and progress of the IMPACT Champions over the last two years. The 30 Champions represent heads of state, corporate leaders and university presidents who are devoted to fulfilling the UN Women’s mandate to empower women and achieve gender equality by 2030.

Perhaps I should back up. HeForShe, many may recall, is a solidarity campaign for the advancement of women that was introduced at the United Nations by Emma Watson in 2014. It was introduced in a speech that went viral:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkjW9PZBRfk

HeForShe strives to bring the other half of society (read: men) to the table to accelerate gender equality and the empowerment of women. HeForShe represents the first global effort to include men and boys as change agents for gender equality. As the world watches unprecedented numbers of women who have suffered from sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace step forward in the era of #MeToo, the HeForShe movement strikes a particularly relevant chord.

The recent Report canvasses examples of both the successes and challenges that have faced the 30 Champions. None of the 30 Champions are law firms, but parallels can certainly be drawn from a variety of the corporate Champions, including PwC, McKinsey & Company, Barclays, and Tupperware Brands, to name a few.

For example, PwC identified that in 2006, despite women accounting for approximately 50 per cent of graduate hires, women accounted for only 13 per cent of partners globally and 8 per cent of their Global Leadership Team.

These numbers should sound familiar to members of the legal profession. A 2016 report by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, Diversity by the Numbers: The Legal Profession, (http://www.ccdi.ca/attachments/DBTN_TLP_2016.pdf), found that in 2016 even though approximately 50 per cent of articling students and associates were women, only 27 per cent of equity partners were women.

When PwC conducted an analysis to understand its numbers, it revealed that women were not leaving at a higher rate than men in most grades, but rather departing male and female workers were being replaced with more male hires. PwC took a number of actions and female representation on its Global Leadership Team increased to 47 per cent in eight years. This is just one example of the successes the 30 Champions have experienced so far. Law firms, listen up.

It remains to be seen just what this might mean for women in law, but it gives me hope. It will take time and it may require drastic structural and cultural changes, but with buy-in at the top equality can be achieved. The Report and the Champions are paving the way for other organizations, including law firms. Firms need to conduct their own analyses to assess their individual firm’s environment, determine why women are leaving, analyze whether individuals leaving are being replaced with diverse candidates, consider whether women are being promoted at the same rate, or identify any other reasons why the number of women in their firm drop precipitously at more senior levels, and then develop individualized action plans. The Report is both a call to action and a toolkit to see it through. Law firms should take it as such, and follow through.   

Sara Albert is counsel at the Alberta Utilities Commission and a member of the women’s Law Forum

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