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Diversity in the Professions

Open prejudice against women in the legal profession has been rooted out, but informal barriers nevertheless remain and women are still massively under-represented in more senior roles.

On 4 November 2010, Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP hosted an evening seminar exploring the issue of diversity in the professions. Cherie attended and spoke alongside Imogen Burton; the Business Development Director at the College of Law and Richard Turnor and Clare Maurice of Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP. Other attendees included representatives from large and small law firms and accountancy practices, investment banks, barristers, patent attorneys, private banks, recruitment specialists and the Law Society.

Cherie, as the key note speaker, began by recalling her experience of seeking a pupillage. While many chambers refused to accept women, some chambers were slightly more progressive, often with a policy of not accepting a woman because they already had one. She observed that open prejudice against women in the legal profession has been rooted out, but informal barriers nevertheless remain and women are still massively under-represented in more senior roles. Ethnic minorities and those from under-privileged backgrounds are also massively under-represented at the higher levels.

Women are amongst the most able lawyers, make the vast majority of consumer decisions and tend to be more cautious and Cherie argued we simply cannot afford to waste the talent of half our population.

Traditionally the City resolves the work/life balance by working people so hard that they don't have a life. She said that now many entrants to law know that they won't have a job for life, but they do demand a job that allows them to have a life.

Women welcome the opportunity to work flexibly because, despite social progress, women typically remain responsible for the household duties. But research has shown that increasingly men want to work flexibly too. As a society, we need people to care for their children and we want intelligent, ambitious people to have children. She said we need to change the attitude that flexible working shows a lack of commitment.

To view the original report on the Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP website click here

To view a thought piece by Richard Turnor click here