Auckland University’s Law Student Society (AULSS) recently came under fire for promoting a recruitment event to law students featuring a panel of experts consisting entirely of Pākehā men.
The panel was part of the ‘Pizza & Partners’ recruitment series, and students were invited to attend and hear from five leading law firm partners, none of whom were women or people of colour.
The lack of diversity on the panel was criticised by Anoushka Bloem, (right) President of the Auckland Women Lawyers’ Association, who said that it ignored the principles of the New Zealand Law Society gender equality charter and the Chief Justice’s constant statements on the need to improve diversity on the bench and in the profession.
Bloem also noted that if students cannot see people “like them” in senior positions, they are less likely to pursue these career options.
According to the New Zealand Law Society, over 70 percent of law graduates are women, and just over half of the legal profession in New Zealand is female. However, while more than half of the lawyers who work in law firms are women, they make up only a third of partners or directors in those firms.
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Therefore, it was surprising that the panel event was organised with such a glaring lack of diversity. National Council of Women New Zealand President Suzanne Manning said that every panel, every event, and outreach by industry professionals should showcase staff diversity to support and encourage diversity of applicants.
In response to the criticism, AULSS issued an apology to its members and acknowledged its oversight on the issue of diversity.
The student organisation said it had “reflected on comments and concerns, and have acted on them as much as we can in the given timeframe to make changes to the panel.”
The final membership of the panel consisted of three male and two female partners.
The lack of diversity on the panel is a reminder that there is still much work to be done to improve diversity and gender equality in the legal profession, which is also a matter that Chief Justice Dame Helen Winkelmann (left) has espoused during her various announcements as Chief Justice.
The University of Auckland and its law school are committed to equity and diversity and incorporate such values into teaching and learning. It is important for all industry professionals to recognise the need for diversity and actively work towards creating a more inclusive and representative profession.