Australian law firms drop the ball on gender equality

December 9, 2013 There were just nine women among the 35 partner appointments at Australia’s big six law firms in 2013.

The figures show a 40 per cent drop in female partner promotions from last year’s figures, when 24 out of 58 promotions at the six largest firms were female lawyers.

The figures are somewhat surprising in light of industry efforts to address gender inequality in their partnerships: King & Wood Mallesons announced a a target of reaching a 30% female partnership by 2015, Minter Ellison wants half of its internal promotions over a five-year period to be women, Ashurst and Herbert Smith Freehills are in the process of setting targets, while Allens has set quotas for 2017 but declined to give details. Clayton Utz said it has a diversity programme but no concrete targets.

Herbert Smith Freehills saw the biggest dip in female partner promotions, with no women made up to the partnership in 2013 among a promotions round that saw seven men promoted. In 2012 half of the firm's promotions (five out of 10) were female partners.

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