International Women’s Day is a global holiday celebrated annually on 8th March to recognise the achievements of women with its focus on women’s rights, gender equality, reproductive rights and violence and abuse against women.

This year’s campaign #BreaktheBias focuses on a gender equal world[1] .The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919[2] paved the way for women to become lawyers in the UK. Just over 100 years on, much has been achieved, but like many professions, women working within the legal sector still face many distinct challenges.

The most recently published statistics from the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA)[3] slows a slow but steady improvement. Whilst more women tend to work in law firms (56% compared to 44% of men[4]), women at the top are still underrepresented, especially, women from ethnic backgrounds.

So, there is still work to be done.

Unconscious bias

Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. But knowing that bias exists is not enough. Action is needed to level the playing field. The SRA has reported that 61% of solicitors are women but that only 35%[5] go on to become Partners with even less as equity-Partners. Reasons for this, is the bias in the process. As the interviewer is more likely to be a man, it is easier to find common ground typically with other men. This leads to an unconscious preference simply because one individual thinks they relate better to another individual. Many women and women of ethnic backgrounds especially miss out on the top spot simply because they are not seen as relatable and are staggeringly overlooked for top positions.

Unequal pay

Recent, gender pay gap reporting has shown that the gap is closing between women and men. Which is positive – right? However, the top earners are still men and men tend to be paid more in bonuses. There has not been any meaningful shift with these figures indicating the difficulties women still have in breaking the glass ceiling. The Law Society Group 2021 Gender Pay Gap Report[6] shows that the median difference in pay between men and women has decreased by -0.5% but the gap is still 11.3%. Whilst lower than the UK average which is 15.4%[7], women in the legal sector are still finding themselves being paid less than their male counterparts.

Lack of support in regard to sexual harassment in workplace

It is disappointing that sexual harassment is still an issue for women in 2022 and that it occurs in the workplace. However, it is positive to see many firms’ approaches and attitudes have shifted giving more women a voice to speak out without being penalised. This is an issue that requires work and training to ensure women are not sexually harassed and if they are, the correct protocols are in place to support the victim and take action against the perpetrator. It is society’s collective responsible to educate individuals on how to behave and treat women at work.

Juggling family/work

With the rise of flexible/home-working, perhaps the days of women leaving their careers to start a family will start to dwindle bringing in a new super group of women who can and do, do it all. This may also help with more women getting to the top as may no longer have to choose between their careers and starting a family.

As a mixed-raced woman, I have always wondered what entering the legal profession would like for me. I always wondered if I would be penalised for being a woman, for being mixed-raced and for coming from a state school education. However, Machins provided me the platform to enter the profession overlooking these factors and focusing on whether I would be a good asset to the firm.

Machins has seen more women in senior positions with 77%[8] of its solicitors being women, higher than the UK average. Recent promotions in 2020 saw two women senior solicitors promoted into partnership and one man promoted in 2021. Machins’ Compliance Officer for Legal Practice is also a woman which puts a visible female leader at the top inspiring and encouraging the next generation such as myself.

It is therefore imperative that the wider legal profession works cohesively to encourage women into the profession but keep the pedal on the gas to ensure women remain in the profession. It is important for those from diverse backgrounds to use their experiences to share with others and become a platform which is prominent and accessible. Machins proactively encourages all of its employees to excel with a selection process based on set criteria, helping to alleviate any discrimination and at all stages.

Diversity is complicated, but it should be welcomed and I am glad to have begun my legal career at a firm which understands that diversity, is not optional.

“The difference between a broken community and a thriving one is the presence of women who are valued.” [9] Michelle Obama

So, that is why IWD is an important platform allowing those who seek gender parity, the chance to do so. Whether it is by donating money towards a female charity or raising awareness about women’s equality, IWD supports the supporters forging positive change for all women around the world.

Read more from the women at Machins Solicitors.

[1] International Women’s Day, (accessed 02 March 2022)

[2]  The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919,

[3] The Solicitors Regulation Authority, How diverse is the legal profession?, (accessed 02 March 2022)

[4] Of firms with 10 to 50 Partners

[5] The Solicitors Regulation Authority, How diverse is the legal profession?, (accessed 02 March 2022)

[6] The Law Society, Law Society Group 2021 gender pay gap report,  (accessed 02 March 2022)

[7] Office for National Statistics, Gender pay gap in the UK:2021, (accessed 02 March 2022)

[8] Machins Solicitors Human Resources Department

[9] Remarks by the First Lady at the State Department Women of Courage Awards (11 March 2009)

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