Sydney, 30 July 2014: Direct action is needed if Australian law firms are to increase the level of representation of women in their partnerships and at senior levels, according to Clayton Utz chief executive partner (CEP) Rob Cutler.
Mr Cutler said the profession needed to work together to reduce the rate of female attrition from the law, which was highlighted in the Law Council of Australia's National Attrition and Re-engagement Study (NARS) released earlier this year.
Mr Cutler said one of his priorities over his term as CEP was to drive cultural change within the firm to improve gender diversity, particularly in the Clayton Utz partnership.
"In February this year, our Diversity Council, of which I am chair, committed to a target of 35 per cent of women in the partnership by 2025. This target was set based on rigorous analysis of the current percentage of women in our partnership (around 19 per cent) and what we think is actually achievable rather than simply aspirational. We would hope to exceed the target," said Mr Cutler.
Mr Cutler said the business case for gender diversity was clear. He said he was committed to direct action to improve the firm's female partner numbers.
"Clayton Utz has promoted many talented women to the partnership over the years, and women have held senior leadership roles including office partner-in-charge and board chair. Women comprise nearly forty per cent of our new senior leadership team, with my having appointed Kate Jordan as Deputy CEP - People and Development, and partners Nikki Robinson, Fran Rush, Karen Trainor, Karen O'Flynn and Kirsten Webb among our 14 national practice group leaders," Mr Cutler said.
"Creating market-leading career paths for our women has also been part of our formal strategic plan for several years now. While we have a number of initiatives in place to support our women in achieving personal and professional success however, we recognise that direct action is needed to effect real change at the partnership level.
"Among the initiatives we are exploring are a formal process for identifying high-performing lawyers with partnership potential on a merit-based assessment and ensuring a high-level of participation amongst our female lawyers. We are also conducting unconscious bias training to help employees become more aware of biases that may act as barriers to better decision-making. This also includes understanding the importance of gender diversity and inclusion."
Mr Cutler said the firm would also continue to drive initiatives through our networking program called Momentum, which offers a range of educational and professional development opportunities for our people. Most recently, Momentum ran the first session in our new 'Flexible Working Practices Series', with four senior lawyers (female and male) sharing their experiences of their own flexible work arrangement and the reasons for its success in practice.
"As CEP I am keen to encourage and promote diversity on a number of levels - diversity of thinking, of leadership, of work practices, of age and of gender. Clayton Utz is a workplace which is known and admired for our down-to-earth culture and the diverse backgrounds and experiences of our people. With greater diversity on a range of fronts, there is much we can achieve as a business."