09 Feb 2018

UK law firms reveal gender pay gap

Law firms in the UK have started to disclose their gender pay gap figures.

Seven top 50 UK law firms have published their gender pay gap data showing a gulf between the earnings of male and female staff. Linklaters, which is so far the only magic circle firms to have published its figures, has marginally the widest gap. Its female staff are paid on average 23% less than their male colleagues, rising to 39.1% when the mean figure is considered. Women also receive 58% less in bonus payments.

City and regional

On average Pinsent Mason’s gender pay gap is 22.4% for both mean and median. Bird & Bird pays its female staff an hourly rate of 14.5% less than their male counterparts, while the median gap is 27.6%. Taylor Wessing, has a mean hourly gender pay gap of 13.5% and a mean of 32.8%. Herbert Smith Freehills’ figures show that it pays its female staff 19% less than the men and gives them 30 per cent smaller bonuses. Women at CMS are paid 17 per cent less than its men and get bonuses that are about 27 per cent smaller, and at regional firm Shoosmiths, women are paid 15.5 per cent less.

Explaining the difference

The firms claim that the differences are skewed by the proportion of women working in less well paid secretarial or support roles or who are working part time. While they may not appear much worse than the national average, which is 18%, they do not reveal the full picture, as they do not include the sums received by partners. Gender pay reporting legislation, introduced in the UK last year requires employers with 250 or more staff to publish gender pay gap statistics by 4 April 2018 and annually thereafter.

Pay equality in USA

Gender pay is in the spotlight on the other side of pond too, where some US law firms are facing claims of gender discrimination, including pay disparity. The New York Law Journal reported this week that Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor said pay equality was one of the greatest challenges. Speaking at Brown University, she said: "Women doing the same work still earn less than men. You can't fight the facts. Pay equality is one of the biggest issues our nation faces”.