find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Women in law are off the agenda: Summers

Women in law are off the agenda: Summers

THE “PRECIOUS LITTLE” power that women have in this country is not much greater in the legal profession, journalist, author and speaker on the rights of women, Anne Summers, said in…

THE “PRECIOUS LITTLE” power that women have in this country is not much greater in the legal profession, journalist, author and speaker on the rights of women, Anne Summers, said in an address to the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) recently.

“Thirty years ago we began a revolution in this country,” Summers said in her speech, ‘Women’s Equality: Back on the agenda?’.

“It was a revolution that recognised the legal, social and attitudinal barriers to women achieving equality of opportunity as it progressed — as these barriers were ripped away — I doubt if anyone in this country escaped the ramifications,” she said.

But a year or so ago, Summers discovered that in fact “things were not as they should be”, she said. We had “stalled on our road to equality”, and “women were starting to go backwards”.

The legal profession offers no relief from a trend that discourages women from top positions, and which offers men the highest wages, she said.

In an interview with Lawyers Weekly, LIV president Chris Dale said he was anxious to have Summers speak at the event because “she makes this matter accessible”..

“[Summers] makes out a case for a lack of improvement for women in Australia. I think this is important, particularly what she has to say about the legal profession and the need to reassess the current position,” Dale said.

It was important that Summers speak to the profession so that these issues could be addressed, Dale said. He said he was also keen to ensure the LIV helps to facilitate change for solicitors, arguing the catalyst for change was Summers’ attendance and speech at the event.

The courts in particular are negligent. This is most obvious in the small number of female Supreme Court judges, Summers suggested. Acknowledging that in some states the situation was not bad — for example in Queensland 29 per cent of Supreme Court judges are women, and 22 per cent in WA — she noted that in Tasmania there were none.

The federal level mirrors this fashion, where “the higher you go, the fewer the women”, she said. Women currently make up 33 per cent of Family Court judges, but only 13 per cent of Federal Court judges and there are no women in the High Court.

As well, Summers said despite having paid the same fees and studied the same subjects, women graduates earn less. The Law Society of NSW estimated that last year the average income for men with less than a year’s experience since admission was $52,600. For women it was $44,000.

“When we look at the powerful public and commercial institutions of our society, we see that their top ranks remain closed to all but a tiny fraction of women,” she said.

Other areas of the workforce have also been affected by this development, including the Federal Parliament where 26 per cent of politicians are women. This was in fact an increase overall, but in positions of leadership, while there used to be two women state premiers, there are now none.

We have reached the end of equality, Summers said. “Although we never achieved full equality of opportunity between women and men in Australia, we did for a couple of decades at least have it as a national goal.”

Equality used to be on the political agenda, she said, “and no prime minister, however conservative, he — and the leaders were all, and still are, men — would [never] have dared challenge its right to be there”.

While we were making progress in the past, this appears to be no longer the case, Summers said.

For more stories about women in the legal profession, see our award-winning Women in Law section next week.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Women in law are off the agenda: Summers
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
microphone
Oct 20 2017
Podcast: One of law’s most infamous alumni – in conversation with Julian Morrow
In this episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Melissa Coade is joined by The Chaser’s Julian Morrow....
protest
Oct 20 2017
High Court overturns ‘excessive’ anti-protest legislation
Bob Brown’s recent victory in the High Court over the Tasmanian government was a win for fundament...
Blocked
Oct 20 2017
Changes to Australian citizenship laws blocked
Attempts to beef up the requirements to obtain Australian citizenship were thwarted this week, after...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...