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01 November 2017 at 00:30 BST

Male lawyers get promoted over women, McKinsey says

Law firms fall below industry averages when it comes to retaining women lawyers, the consultancy finds in its inaugural law firm report.


Female lawyers have less chance of being promoted than their male colleagues and are more likely to exit the firm than men. The findings were part of  McKinsey & Company's inaugural study of law firms and revealed the difficulties women face in law firms. The consultancy found that women in the legal industry receive first-time promotions 11 per cent less often than men; female lawyers are 29 per cent less likely to win promotion at the first level of partnership than men; and at the equity partner level in law firms, women are 43 per cent more likely to leave the firm than men, a much higher gap than in other industries.

Many areas for improvement

It concluded that whilst law firms were making an effort,  the legal industry overall has many areas for improvement to more fully remove the impediments to career advancement faced by women lawyers today. While the legal industry starts at near parity between women and men at the associate levels, career advancement for women soon begins to follow a different path.The research revealed that female lawyers feel they are forced to make trade-offs between career success and personal lives — and, almost half of them stated that prioritising work-life balance is the greatest threat to their professional success. 

Limited success

The report states that  law firm efforts to address the issues have had limited success - with only 19 per cent of equity partners women and less chance of getting promoted.  'We found that law firms face higher attrition among women than men at the equity partner level and that the gender gap is much is much wider in law firms than in other industries. Women of colour face an even steeper climb, with their representation dropping significantly at all levels in the pipeline,' the report said.  It added that female lawyers perceive less commitment to gender equality and a more uneven playing field at law firms than their male colleagues.'


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