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Firms take gongs for workplace equality

Firms take gongs for workplace equality

A number of law firms are this week sprucing their female-friendly workplaces, after being included in the Equal Opportunity for Women in

A number of law firms are this week sprucing their female-friendly workplaces, after being included in the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency's (EOWA) Employer of Choice for Women list.

The twelve law firms to make the 95-long list include Allens Arthur Robinson, Baker & McKenzie, Blake Dawson, Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Freehills, Gilbert + Tobin, Holding Redlich, Maddocks, Mallesons Stephen Jaques, McCullough Robertson and Sparke Helmore.

To be recognised as an employer of choice for women, firms must meet strict criteria including offering a minimum of six weeks paid maternity leave after 12 months of service.

Firms must also conduct sex-based harassment education at least every two years; provide the ability for female managers to work part-time; ensure the percentage of female managers is the same or greater than the industry average and ensure a pay equity analysis has been undertaken.

This year, Blake Dawson received its 10th consecutive citation as employer of choice for women - the only law firm to receive this many citations.

Blake Dawson welcomed the recognition of their initiatives which include a women's mentoring program; an "on ramping" program which is directed at improving retention and transition back to work of employees following periods of parental leave; plus a flexible work program to improve the effectiveness of flexible work arrangements and to provide guidance to partners and staff to ensure greater consistency across the firm.

"We are very proud of this achievement and of our record as the only law firm to have received this many citations, but we recognise there are still many opportunities to do more within our firm," said deputy managing partner, Helen McKenzie.

Another recognised firm, Holding Redlich, was found by EOWA to have demonstrated its commitment to equality by ensuring it provides flexible work practices - with nearly 90 per cent of the firm's female lawyers who took maternity leave in the last five years returning to work. Further, the firm has seen three women partners progress through the ranks from junior lawyer to partner while taking periods of maternity leave. The firm's recruitment program is also focused on maintaining equality with 12 of the 16 graduates in 2008 being female.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth received a spot on the list for the fourth successive year with achievements to date including 35 per cent of partners and senior managers being women and more than 17 per cent of its employees working on a part-time basis.

Corrs has also implemented various initiatives which include an organisational KPI process to ensure that more than 50 per cent of candidates in the partnership pipeline are women.

EOWA acting director Mairi Steele said in a statement: "By applying for and receiving this citation, these organisations are not only meeting the prerequisites and criteria, but are publicly declaring their commitment to making their workplaces equitable.

"They know they are not perfect, but they are working hard to make their organisations good places for women to work," Steele said.

- Briana Everett

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