International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women across the world and a chance to discuss and build upon the progress that has been made towards gender equality.
Before 1919, women were not allowed to practice the law. 2019 is 100 years since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act was passed, which paved the way for women to finally practise law – and as today is International Women’s day, we think it’s a perfect to mark the occasion and celebrate our women lawyers!
The first women to pass their law examination were Maud Crofts, Carrie Morrison, Mary Pickup and Mary Sykes in 1922. Carrie Morrison finished her articles first out of the four women and was the first woman to be admitted to the role of solicitors.
Dr Ivy Williams was the first woman to be called to the English Bar on the 10th May 1922, although she never practised as a barrister, instead becoming the first woman to teach law at an English university. Just a few months later, Helena Normanton became the first woman to practise as a barrister in England. She was called to the Bar in November 1922 at Middle Temple and went on to become the first female counsel in cases in the High Court of Justice, and the first woman to obtain a divorce for a client.
MJN Legal recognises that 2019 is a special year for all female lawyers and we have come a long way since the Carrie became the first female qualified Solicitor; women now represent over half of lawyers in the profession. In 2017 UCAS data showed that over two thirds of the people accepted to study law at University were female students. Research has also suggested that since 1990 women have represented more than 60% of new entrants into law.
With women also making up a higher percentage of newly qualified and associate lawyers, unfortunately, this is not equally represented at partner level, only 28% of partners are women in the UK (and this is even less for magic circle firms, with women representing 19%).
In 2018, the UK government introduced compulsory reporting of gender pay gap for organisations with 250 or more employees. The initial reports showed a clear difference between the earnings of male and female staff. Reports showed that female staff members at law firms earn up to 39% less than their male counterparts.
So much has changed in the past 100 years and women have certainly achieved a lot within law. With many women at the newly qualified and associate levels we would expect to see the percentage of female partners rise and with the gender pay gap reports becoming compulsory, again there will be a pressure on law firms for female lawyers to be paid the same as their male counterparts.
Whether you are male or female, if you feel underpaid or undervalued in your current role or if you are considering your options, please contact Michael Niven at MJN Legal for a confidential chat.