Supporting senior female partners in their leadership roles is a crucial, substantive strategy to better achieve gender balance in law firms, according to Ashurst global managing partner Paul Jenkins.

Global law firm Ashurst recently hosted its first ever RISE Forum with female partners from across its 25 international offices at its Sydney workplace, as a way to bring together those women who had recently taken on leadership roles, provide an opportunity to share ideas about optimal performance in their roles, and support broader female talent at the firm.

The three-day forum included sessions on building a market profile and a sustainable career, and a panel lunch with the firm’s Male Champions of Change (MCC), including Mr Jenkins.

These panel sessions and the lunch were all hosted by the founder of MCC, former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.

Ensuring a representative proportion of women in partnership, and then ensuring progression through the senior levels of the business in comparable journeys to male counterparts, is something Ashurst is trying hard to achieve, Mr Jenkins said.

“I firmly believe all people should be able to progress their careers regardless of their gender and not be faced with any bias or systematic barriers,” he proclaimed.

“When we look at the percentage of female partners and female equity partners across the firm, and the wider legal profession, it is not representative of our broader population.”

Achieving gender balance is important, he continued, and it must be a business priority to have a diverse and inclusive organisation.

“Having employees who differ in gender, background, culture and beliefs allows our teams to think differently, which leads to more innovative solutions for our clients,” he said.

“Gender balance also creates a better working culture for everyone at the firm.”

Mr Jenkins said all female lawyers should be encouraged to proactively take opportunities available to them, especially mentoring and sponsorship.

“Maintaining an open dialogue with senior stakeholders around their career aspirations is also important — make your aspirations known,” he advised.

“Similarly, inclusive leaders have an important role as mentors in developing our next generation of talent — these relationships are one of the most effective ways to ensure we continue to progress gender equality.”

The firm currently has 17 per cent of its female partners in equity, up 2 per cent from two years ago, and women in leadership roles has risen from 17 per cent to 23 per cent across the firm, Mr Jenkins said.

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