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Equality or Equality

(34 Posts)
MeRichard Fri 13-Jul-18 05:33:25

It is 100 years next year since women were first accepted as solicitors. The incoming president of the law society is female. Forty eight percent of lawyers are too (vs 47% of the general workforce). This all looks like progress. Predictably, the picture is lagging in top roles with just one third of partners being women.

We often think of law as very well paid, but lawyers often work very long hours and salary variations are huge. While a corporate solicitor in London, when starting, can be paid £90,000, a new provincial lawyer may earn below minimum hourly wage.

Seven percent of children attend private school, yet they make up 44% of those in the high-paying law firms. For well paid junior roles, the recent shift has not been toward women but specifically toward rich, privileged women. Ethnically the story is similar with privately educated Asians dominating, leaving behind state-schooled black girls, for example.

Law looks likely to achieve equality without any danger of becoming a meritocracy.

How much does the exclusion of the majority of the best women from a profession threaten gender equality?

Ataterf Fri 13-Jul-18 05:46:13

Are you suggesting that new women lawyers are less socially or ethnically diverse that new men lawyers? If so, do you have any evidence for that? What are the figures?

If not, I don't understand your argument - you seem to be mixing up separate (but important) issues.

MrsTerryPratchett Fri 13-Jul-18 07:35:30

The profession is no longer sexist (in your opinion) but still racist and classist? That's neither equality nor equity, surely.

FemWomb Fri 13-Jul-18 12:04:29

MeRichard Fri 13-Jul-18 19:01:58

I am suggesting, Ataterf, that law did a bad job of selecting men and they are not simply choosing the best women either. The numbers tell that, in particular, they cannot be selecting the best women into the highest-paying roles.

So, MrsTerryPratchett, I am pondering whether reaching simple numerical equality does eliminate sexism? Is it OK to say that "we are now equally incompetent at selecting female candidates".

Does equality, any dimension of equality really, demand meritocracy?

caroldecker Fri 13-Jul-18 19:15:50

Why are you convinced they are not selecting the best women who apply?

MeRichard Fri 13-Jul-18 19:34:12

Carol, they have over six times as many who went to private school compared to the general population.

DieAntword Fri 13-Jul-18 19:37:13

It does suck for people who went to private school that so many of them get suckered into a law career but thankfully the vast majority of people do manage to avoid it. I don’t think there needs to be special measures to help the people who did make the fools mistake of pursuing law. They can always change careers later.

MrsTerryPratchett Fri 13-Jul-18 19:50:52

No, I said " in your opinion". Because I don't agree. When you have an adversarial system, with judges letting rapists off entirely or with a slap on the wrist, and property seen as more valuable than people, and all the other hangovers... the law is deeply misogynist. Just having more female lawyers doesn't fix that. It should help over time. It won't help with the racism or classism.

Ataterf Fri 13-Jul-18 19:52:26

Yes, it is possible to achieve sex equality in some narrow area without fixing all other inequalities in that area. Is this somehow surprising?

MeRichard Fri 13-Jul-18 19:54:56

I guess you are being flippant DieAntword. I know gender discrimination is not a serious topic for every contributor.

However, your point is valid, recruiting the wrong women who then leave is not as useful as recruiting those who stay and instead end up being leaders in the industry.

MrsTerryPratchett Fri 13-Jul-18 20:07:59

One thing that does occur to me is that law degrees are extremely common amongst politicians. And if they are all rivals school educated white people, that's not good for the state of the country.

MeRichard Fri 13-Jul-18 20:34:59

Yes indeed MrsTP.

Law is one of the most prevalent professions in parliament isn't it.

Judges start out as lawyers.

Lawyers are often the ones chosen to head enquiries.

Adequate representation at the top-level in law is not just academic. To achieve, not just a number of female lawyers, but highly effective, capable women in the profession matters.

LassWiADelicateAir Fri 13-Jul-18 23:20:16

How much does the exclusion of the majority of the best women from a profession threaten gender equality?

How do you know the best women are being excluded?

MeRichard Sat 14-Jul-18 04:30:47

LassWiADelicateAir; see post seven in reply to post six.

MeRichard Sat 14-Jul-18 06:23:24


When you have an adversarial system, with...
Just curious, but are you saying that the adversarial system is inherently more discriminatory than say an inquisitorial system? Not an idea I had heard before but maybe worth thinking about.

I was primarily thinking about solicitors and not barristers. I was discussing conventional employment opportunities - a point which doesn't really apply to barristers.

No, I said " in your opinion". Because I don't agree.
Actually, I think we do both agree. I think we are both saying that just balancing the numbers is not enough.

judges letting rapists off entirely or with a slap on the wrist, and property seen as more valuable than people, and all the other hangovers
An interesting discussion I am sure. In this case I was more simply talking about careers and opportunities to enter the profession for the most suitable women.

LassWiADelicateAir Sat 14-Jul-18 13:37:55

I don't think my question was answered. I am a solicitor and a partner, not in one of the big London firms but in a Scottish context certainly one of the big name firms. What school I went to won't feature in any statistics as it is not information I have ever given.

MeRichard Sat 14-Jul-18 15:44:34

So did you only go to state schools LassWiADelicateAir?

LassWiADelicateAir Sat 14-Jul-18 15:50:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

kesstrel Sat 14-Jul-18 18:41:18

It's actually 18% of A level students who are in private schools, and it's A levels that will be counted for those figures. Still a big discrepancy, but not quite as bad. I wonder if the figures are better for younger lawyers?

LassWiADelicateAir Sat 14-Jul-18 20:06:22

I asked for my reply to be removed but the answer ro OP is state educated.

MeRichard Sat 14-Jul-18 20:55:27

As to be expected statistically, LassWiADelicateAir. Thank you for answering such a direct question.

The surveys that I have looked at are sampled, like most I think, so the fact you have not been asked before isn't perhaps a total surprise.

That is a good point Kesstrel. As you suggest though 44% vs 18% still suggests quite a problem.

Ataterf Sat 14-Jul-18 22:03:22

I'm still confused. What exactly is the feminist / women's rights issue you're raising?

caroldecker Sat 14-Jul-18 22:04:06

Why are you saying that state school educated people are the best that apply?

LassWiADelicateAir Sat 14-Jul-18 22:57:58

I am confused as well. I'm not sure what point is being made.

My point is no one has asked me what school I went to. My educational background does not feature in any statistics about women in law. So what validity do any statistics purporting to show that privately educated women are over represented have? No one is routinely collecting this data.

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