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Money Matters and Misconceptions for Women in Law

Money Matters and Misconceptions for Women in Law

Women make up almost two thirds of new traineeships in private practice firms, yet only 30 percent of partners within private practice are female.1 With statistics like this, it's no wonder the 'gender agenda' set out by Christina Blacklaws in her 2018-19 term as President of The Law Society, is still as relevant as ever today.

At Wesleyan, we are dedicated to supporting trusted professionals, and promoting financial wellbeing is very much close to our heart. As a strategic partner of The Law Society, we have taken decisive action on this topic, bringing together people and highlighting conversations on some of the financial implications faced by women in the profession.

To support International Women's Day 2020, Wesleyan, in collaboration with The Law Society, hosted a series of panel debates across the country discussing the barriers and obstacles faced by women in law and how certain life experiences could impact on their long-term financial goals.

Joined by some of the sectors most respected and influential women, the events took place in London, Birmingham & Manchester.

"I was delighted to be a panel member at this event as this is a subject very close to my heart. There shouldn't be any gender inequality in the profession. Whist there has been so many positive steps made regarding equality for women in law, there is still a big gap - one which strikes me as absolutely abysmal in this day and age."
Glynis Wright, President Leicestershire Law Society.

Full-time female legal professionals earn 24% less than men.2

There are circa 70,000 female solicitors with practicing certificates in England and Wales. Since 2017, the number of women in the profession has outstripped men. Yet, full-time female legal professionals earn on average, 24% less than their male colleagues.

Aside from a lesser amount of disposable income, the implications of the pay gap on longer term finances can be significant. Pension contributions, mortgage affordability and the ability to protect income can all be affected by lower salaries.

Unconscious bias: stopping women rising to the top

With only minimal movement between 2018-19 in respect of female representation at partner level, 52% of respondents to a 2018 survey 3 by The Law Society found that unconscious bias was one of the main barriers to career progression.

Whist it is generally recognised that there has been progress on gender equality over the last five years, 46% outlined that traditional networks/routes to promotion are male orientated.

Working mothers earn 20% less than fathers ten years after the birth of their last child.4

At some point during your working life a woman may consider having children. For women who decide this is for them, they will more than likely take maternity leave. In fact, 52% of working age mums have taken parental leave compared to 17% of working dads. 5

While on maternity, business moves on., new opportunities arise, and promotions take place. Of course, it's not just maternity leave, both men and women choose to take career breaks - which also impacts on earnings.

Taking a career break doesn't just affect immediate finances. Taking a career break or working reduced hours with a reduced salary may have a detrimental impact on the amount you're able to borrow for a mortgage.

The average pension pot for women is £28,900 compared to the average man's pension pot worth £34,500.6  

And that's just the tip of the iceberg, this gap widens with age. For men aged between 55-64, their pension pot is worth over double to that of the average woman. Knowledge and understanding are partly responsible for this.

Over 50% of women in their late 20's, when asked, stated that they do not understand enough to make decisions about retirement savings.7

In addition, the situation may be compounded by maternity leave or career breaks which will reduce the amount received at retirement. Entitlement to State Pension may also be affected as only those with a minimum of 35 years with qualifying National Insurance Contributions will be entitled to the full amount.

Not getting involved in retirement planning from an early point in your career could leave you quite exposed when it comes to retirement. Not just because of the amount of income you receive from your pension, but also because of shifts in family structure, home ownership and the potential need for social care.

This shouldn't however influence what you want to do - just ensure you plan for it. Plan for your career breaks or to go part time, invest for the long-term and start your retirement planning at an early age.

Thank you to all our panellists at these seminars who bought anecdotes, advice and guidance on how they have dealt with many of the issues raised above.

  • London: Alison Lobb, Managing Partner - Moorecrofts LLP; Lucy Scott-Moncrieff - Managing Director, Scott-Moncrieff & Associates; Sandra Wallace - Joint Managing Director UK & Europe DLA Piper; and Sarah Goulbourne - Cofounder Gunnercooke
  • Birmingham:  Deborah Evans - CEO of Lawyers in Local Government; Glynis Wright - President of Leicestershire Law Society & Managing Director of Glynis Wright & Co Family Solicitors; and Linden Thomas - President of Birmingham Law Society & Lecturer at Birmingham Law Society
  • Manchester: Alison Lobb - Managing Partner; Moorecrofts LLP, Amy Clowrey - Immediate Past President of The Law Society's Junior Lawyers Division; and Sally Penni - Barrister & founder of Women in the Law UK

Finally, thank you to the audience at each seminar for contributing to the discussion.

Whilst the points made and statistics make for some sobering reading, the conversations had are a reminder to challenge the status quo, constructively make a case for equality if you feel discriminated against and, not give up on the amazing work you are doing servicing your clients and transforming the profession.

1 Trends in the solicitors' profession Annual Statistics Report 2018, August 2019, page 26
2 SOC10 4 Table 14.12 Gender pay gap 2018 Full-time tab, line 116
3 International Womens Day 2019
4 The financial power of women, Fidelity July 2018 p6
5 HSBC The Future of Retirement, 2018, UK Factsheet p2
6 The financial power of women, Fidelity July 2018 p4
7 Securing-the-financial-future-of-the-next-generation-exec-summary p5

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