find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (3-5 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Dynamic organisation ·
View details
Legal Counsel
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: North Sydney NSW 2060
· 18 month fixed term contract · 3-5 years PQE with TMT exposure
View details
'All nighter'; a barrier to women partners today

'All nighter'; a barrier to women partners today

Terms such as "maternity leave", and the badge of honour applied to those who "pull an all-nighter" to get a task done, may be symptoms of hidden gender biases preventing women from reaching law…

Terms such as "maternity leave", and the badge of honour applied to those who "pull an all-nighter" to get a task done, may be symptoms of hidden gender biases preventing women from reaching law firm partnerships.

That's the opinion of Professor Bob Wood who, with the help of Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Westpac, ANZ, Santos and NSW Police, hopes to provide solutions to long-standing challenges preventing women from reaching leadership positions via The Gender Equality Project.

Researching the issue with the Melbourne Business School's Centre for Ethical leadership, Wood hopes his data will uncover subconscious "gender biases" associated with workplace language and behaviour.

From there, participants will aim to explore "game changers" that may promote more long-lasting change.

"People are saying there are some inherent mindsets that make it very difficult to make progress," Wood told Lawyers Weekly. "While we believe you've got to change individuals, unless we change the fundamental context - like the meaning of work and the meaning of success - we won't get anywhere."

Participants on the project attended a two-day planning workshop earlier this month and heard from Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick on the extent of gender inequity in senior managerial positions.

Participant Christine Covington, a partner at Corrs and chair of the firm's Diversity Council, said she hopes the project can deliver some significant and sustainable workplace change.

"Some leaders in the field [of diversity] are beginning to say 'it's been twenty years, we've been trying, we've been beating the drum, we've been developing programs but we're just not getting there'," she said. "We're not getting the sustained improvement that we're looking for so we need to do something else, something different. "

Wood questioned if terms like "maternity leave" could contribute to hidden biases in the workplace, with women returning from such leave often finding their responsibilities diminished. "Why can't it simply be called a sabbatical?" he asked, suggesting that individuals who go on sabbaticals do not return to find their responsibilities to be drastically altered.

Wood also pointed to certain behaviours in the workplace, such as the notion of lawyers declaring they've "pulled an all-nighter" to get work completed, potentially stimulates bias against women and those who choose flexible work.

"They seem to think that working all-night is something to be proud of, rather then evidence of a total lack of ability to organise oneself," said Wood. "When you're caught up in it it's a bit like being in a club. It defines who your are. It's romantic that there's a sense of challenge. But it is misguided."

Wood added that billable hours and client allocation may also be underlying structural factors preventing women reaching senior positions and law firm partnerships.

He questioned whether or not lawyers and their firms would be willing to think radically about how their billing structures and work practices impact gender diversity at the senior level.

"The point is that there are probably some fairly basic things like that where people have to think differently. Lawyers might believe that's the most effective billing or incentive structure but that's a contestable view," he said.

Angela Priestley

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

'All nighter'; a barrier to women partners today
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
LCA applauds proposed Modern Slavery Act
The Law Council of Australia has welcomed new recommendations for the development of a Modern Slaver...
Top-tier offers targeted mentoring for Indigenous law students
Students at Macquarie University will be the first to benefit from a new Indigenous mentoring progra...
LCA president Fiona McLeod SC
Aug 17 2017
Where social fault lines meet the justice gap in Aus
After just returning from a tour of the Northern Territory, LCA president Fiona McLeod SC speaks wit...
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'...
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...
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 & ...