The Law Society of Ireland is celebrating International Women’s Day with a call for renewed collective efforts to increase access to leadership roles for women in the legal sector. The call comes as new figures show that over half (53%) of solicitors currently practising in Ireland are women, but just over 1 in 3 (35%) are at partner level.
Throughout March, the Law Society is marking a milestone of 118 women who have benefitted from its Women in Leadership initiative since 2016. The mentoring programme, which aims to empower and support women in advancing their legal careers to a senior level, is part of a growing range of Law Society actions to facilitate greater equality in leadership roles and improve diversity within the legal profession.
Women in Leadership is a collaboration with Law Society Finuas Skillnet and funded by a Skillnet Ireland grant.
Law Society of Ireland Council Member and Women in Leadership Mentor, Sonia McEntee, 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%, this encouraging majority continues today. At partner level however, women are in the minority at 35%, so we need to be mindful that some barriers to women accessing influential roles may still exist,” she said.
“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.”
Empowering the next generation
“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,” explained Ms McEntee. “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.”
“Progress is being made, but there is some way to go,” she said. “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.”