However, firms are seeing more and more talented female lawyers progressing through the ranks to partner, and many organisations have a number of females making up the senior roles. Recently, the NSW Bar Association announced the largest number of female barristers ever appointed as senior counsel on a single occasion. Of the 26 barristers being raised to the senior ranks of the Bar, 12 were women.
In the legal profession there are organisations implementing real initiatives to ensure all of their employees have the opportunity to excel. Many firms, including King & Wood Mallesons, Clifford Chance and Gilbert + Tobin, have set gender targets and are successfully filling them. But the reality is that some firms may not be able to provide the environment men or women with families can thrive in. We have seen firms lose very talented professionals due to high-pressure environments, soaring workloads and hours, causing them to burn out and look elsewhere. However, the ones that have made a commitment to address gender biases are doing it well, while attracting the best talent.
Work-life balance has gone beyond being a buzzword. Firms are offering flexible working hours and the option to work from home to attract more females into their teams. The Australian market in general is doing more than most to maximise the full potential of women, and recent reports show that the pay gap is closing.
Organisations do not generally set out with the view to promote one gender over another, but need people who are extremely talented, good at what they do and who believe in the values of the firm. If that person has a family, they will always go to an organisation that will be flexible to their needs.