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‘Support and momentum’ are needed in D&I

Whilst there has been a definite “shift towards gender equity” within the profession in recent years, these female executives said more needs to be done. 

user iconLauren Croft 21 September 2022 Big Law
‘Support and momentum’ are needed in D&I
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Following the launch of the inaugural Women in Law Forum, to be held in Melbourne this November, Lawyers Weekly spoke to a number of female executives at LEAP, principal partner for the event, on what more the profession needs to be doing to support women in law.

Director of client engagement Brooke Limmer said that events like these are important for the continual support of women in the profession.

“During university, I met many women studying law. When I entered practice in the early 2000s, the profession seemed notably male-dominated. This isn’t entirely surprising. According to the National Profile of Solicitors, women now comprise 53 per cent of all solicitors, up by 45 per cent since 2011. You could see this in the headlines and in the details — for example, I’d read up on sports and the games from the weekend just to have something common to talk about in the very frequent, all-male (and me!) lunches,” she said.


“In the decades since, I’ve noticed a shift towards gender equity, but we’re certainly not at parity in terms of access and upward mobility. Great events like the Women in Law Forum reflect the support and momentum needed as we push towards diversity, and towards a profession more reflective of the changing face of Australia.

“Men in power make a big difference, and we’re lucky that LEAP walks the talk; we’ve embraced a meritocracy-driven diversity. Men aren’t the enemy. But we can’t meaningfully see change without all of us involved in open and honest conversations, backed by action.”

LEAP celebrates its 30th anniversary this year — and Angela Johnston, director of operations at InfinityLaw and Softdocs, both owned by LEAP, said the organisation “played an important role in helping law firms work more productively and profitably”.

“LEAP affords all lawyers the flexibility to work from anywhere at any time; indeed, a significant demographic of the people who use LEAP are women lawyers,” she said.

This sentiment was shared by client marketing manager Wenee Yap.  

“As an Asian-Australian woman and lawyer, it’s a joy to be part of such a diverse and driven women-led team at LEAP APAC,” she said.

“You can feel the impact of this approach in every decision and policy — from parental leave to meaningfully flexible work. This makes sense, since, at LEAP, we’re in the business of making the lives of lawyers easier through purpose-built technology.”

Human resources director Lorenz Braysh added: “We pioneered flexible work long before COVID, because we recognise this can enable both parents to be actively involved in raising their children and progressing their careers. This goes towards removing some of the less visible barriers to women in leadership — i.e. both mums and dads at LEAP can work flexibly, allowing for genuine co-parenting and sharing of domestic labour.

“Indeed, we’re working on further enhancements to our parental policy so it might be even more supportive for families, fathers and mothers.”

However, the Australian legal profession needs to focus more on equity, as well as diverse policies, added client and product manager Chantal McNaught.

“This may be a controversial opinion, but to have equity, having parental policies which apply regardless of gender and to all genders is an important step. There is no meaningful gender equity if we continue to reinforce gender stereotypes. This kind of policy would work to alleviate the social expectation on women to do an unfair share of domestic labour.

“Extending upon this, policies which reflect the egalitarian values of the Australian legal profession and recognise the intersection that exists between people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and LGBTQA peoples. This could be as small gestures as allowing those who identify in vulnerable groups to speak up to large ones like celebrating International Bisexuality Day,” Ms McNaught said.

And according to LEAP acting chief executive Alexandra Kelly, the advancement of women within the company is championed “at every level” — in fact, seven of the 10 executive team members are women.

“Who is in your leadership team matters, from the skills they possess to their diversity of lived experience. Your leadership team models to generations coming up who can lead, and how they might lead,” she said.

“Research published in Harvard Business Review recently showed that firms with more women in senior positions are more profitable, more socially responsible, and provide safer, higher-quality customer experiences. At LEAP, we know this is true, as we’ve seen our diverse women-led leadership team produce strong and consistent commercial outcomes.”

The Women in Law Forum will take place on 24 November 2022 at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne.

Click here to book your tickets and make sure you don’t miss out!

For more information, including the agenda and speakers, click here.