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There are still too few female general counsels

Posted by: Laurence Simons 29/11/16

It’s long been known that females are, in general, under-represented in senior positions in the legal profession, but generally well placed on other levels. So what does the picture currently look like? As part of its annual research – The Lawyer FTSE 100 2016 market report – The Lawyer Market Intelligence analysed the current gender breakdown in the UK and the results proved interesting.

According to the data, there are currently just 22 female general counsels in FTSE 100 firms. While this is low, the figure has remained relatively stable compared to last year – a fairly good sign in such a constantly shifting pool of talent. Breaking down this representation further, the analysis revealed that, since the last report, two females exited the list, but three were new – all of whom were promoted internally.

However, when we look further down the hierarchy, female representation improves significantly. Among the most junior cohort, 57% are female and within the 2007-2011 qualification range 65% are women. These figures equalise slightly for the 2002-2006 band with a female representation of 56 percent, but drops for the 1997-2001 cohort, where 53 % of solicitors are male.

What is interesting is the shift of gender representation within in-house roles, as Charlotte Heiss, general counsel at RSA, explained in an article for The Lawyer:

“Historically it always used to be the perception that more women would end up moving to in-house roles than men because of family commitments. I think that in-house careers are increasingly equally attractive to men and women and I’m seeing a lot more gender balance in candidates than perhaps five or six years ago. I think it’s because in-house career paths are genuinely seen as exciting – we’re part of the decision-making process and there’s an opportunity to play more of a part in the business.”

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