Women make up majority of Irish solicitors but only a third of partners

Women make up majority of Irish solicitors but only a third of partners

Sonia McEntee

Women make up a majority of all practising solicitors in Ireland but just over a third of those at partner level, the Law Society of Ireland has revealed.

To mark International Women’s Day, the Law Society is calling for “renewed collective efforts to increase access to leadership roles for women in the legal sector”.

According to the latest figures, 53 per cent of practising solicitors are women but just 35 per cent of solicitors at partner level are women. The Law Society runs a mentorship programme called Women in Leadership which aims to address the disparity.

Sonia McEntee, a member of the Law Society Council and a mentor with the Women in Leadership programme, said: “This year’s International Women’s Day theme, Choose to Challenge, is our collective call-to-action to confront the status quo and renew our efforts to progress gender equality, diversity and inclusion at leadership and decision-making levels across the Irish solicitors’ profession.

“Let’s build on our meaningful progress to date – becoming the first solicitors’ profession in the world to have a female majority in 2014 was a pivotal marker in our journey towards lasting diversity. And at 53 per cent, this encouraging majority continues today. At partner level however, women are in the minority at 35 per cent, so we need to be mindful that some barriers to women accessing influential roles may still exist.

“The law has a monumental impact on our daily lives, directly and indirectly. It is widely recognised that when women are more involved in decision-making, not only does business flourish but society benefits greatly. It is vital that women have the opportunity to access leadership roles on the same basis as men. We must come together as a profession to do the work to remove these barriers.”

The Women in Leadership programme, which is a collaboration with Law Society Finuas Skillnet and funded by a Skillnet Ireland grant, has supported 118 women since its launch in 2016.

Ms McEntee said: “One of the best ways to progress equality is to use the lived experience of women across the profession to empower the next generation of legal leaders.

“Women in Leadership is the very definition of ‘women championing women’, and we are incredibly proud of its impact to date with 118 successful mentorship pairs since 2016.

“This programme is effective because it embraces core values of the profession – inclusion, access, respect. Mentors are often women in very senior roles from the public and private sectors helping women part-way up the career ladder to reach more senior positions, develop their own businesses further and raise their professional profiles.”

She added: “Progress is being made, but there is some way to go. The Law Society is committed to improving access to the profession, and representation of women and diverse groups. The format of the Women in Leadership programme has proven its effectiveness in meeting these challenges.”

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