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22 October 2020

Allen & Overy sees gender pay gap narrow slightly as it reports progress on diversity goals

Target set in 2018 for 30% of leadership roles to be held by women is met as firm reports on disability for first time

By Ben Edwards

Sasha Hardman

Allen & Overy (A&O) has continued to chip away at its gender pay gap, with average salaries between male and female employees narrowing slightly this year, according to the firm’s fourth annual UK pay gap report.

The magic circle UK firm has also included data on disability for the first time, adding this category to its sections on gender, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

In terms of gender, mean pay for all UK staff including partners narrowed to 59.9% in favour of men, down from 61.5% a year earlier, although median pay edged up, from 43.6% to 46.4%. 

Those numbers continue to be heavily skewed by A&O’s lack of gender diversity at partnership level, with women making up just 20% of all partners and men holding a higher proportion of senior partner roles. Among partners, both the mean and median pay gap were up this year, from 15.9% to 17.8% and 16.7% to 25.7% respectively.

At associate level, however, gender equality is more balanced with women making up 57% of senior lawyers and 51% of lawyers. Even so, mean pay is still in favour of men: 6.7% for senior lawyers and 3.8% for lawyers. The smallest pay gap is for professional staff, where mean pay is 1.4% in favour of men.

Sasha Hardman, global HR director at Allen & Overy, said: “The overall picture from this report is one of progress and that our initiatives are having a real impact, with a broad trend of our pay gaps moving in the right direction.”

She added: “During a crisis there is a risk that diversity and inclusion could become less of a priority but we are determined not to let that happen. We have maintained our action in this important area in recent months during the pandemic and we are focused on continuing to engage with the issues to bring about positive change within A&O.”

Goals set in 2018 to improve gender equality in the firm have largely been met or exceeded. A 30% target for leadership positions to be held by women has been met at board level (30%) and exceeded on both the risk committee (50%) and executive committee (31%). A target to ensure at least 30% of partnership candidates are female each year by 2021 has already been surpassed – 45% of lawyers making partner this year were women.

A&O has also set ethnicity targets including that 15% of the partnership should identify as being from an ethnic minority by 2025: the current figure is 19%. However, the report says the 6% of partners identifying as LGBT+ is in line with the UK population, suggesting the firm “does not have major barriers to progression in this area”.

The report identified a 20.2% mean pay gap in favour on non-disabled UK staff, 3% of those employees who recorded disability information having identified themselves as having a disability.

‘Given that we have a pay gap in favour of non-disabled colleagues, we must work hard to understand what obstacles to progression exist,’ the report said.

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