After years attempting to advance the number of female partners in Australian law firms, the current numbers show they have slumped for the country’s largest, 50 law firms.
The Australian Financial Review Law Partnership survey shows that of the 352 partners in the top tier firms only 40.9 per cent in the promotion round are female, compared to 47.5 per cent last year.
The resuts mean that female partner numbers are unchanged from the previous partnership round, being 32.1 per cent although, as in other jurisdictions like the UK, New Zealand and elsewhere, the women outnumber men in seniority below the partner ranks.
Special Counsel, for instance, (who are the highest level before entering partnership) show that women are almost 60 per cent of the number with 63 per cent of senior associates being women and 60 per cent of graduates.
Of the top 50 firms, just 16 per cent of the firms have female leaders in the managing partner or CEO role.
In California, 22 per cent of law firms have females in equity partnership situations. In the UK a Law.com survey of females in law firms showed that law firms still fall behind in promoting women into partnership despite strong moves to lift the role of women in the law.
Only two of the largest 20 U.K.-headquartered law firms actually feature in the top 25 law firms with the highest number of female partners in the UK.
The diversity survey—sent to Top 50 U.K. law firms and large U.S. law firms operating in London with a U.K. headcount of over 50 lawyers—shows that a strong level of gender inequality that still exists at the top level of the industry with women making up less than a quarter of equity partnerships on average despite the higher number of female law graduates entering the profession, as in other jurisdictions.
In New Zealand, the LawFuel Gender Survey showed that the firm with the highest equity participating partners was at 41 per cent.
As one Australian recruiter said regarding the Australian female partner results, there is much more work to be done.