Omitting partners on the grounds that they are owners was always going to look bad.
Some weeks ago the Gazette was the first legal publication to bemoan the glaring lacuna in the early batch of law firm gender pay gap statistics. Omitting equity partners on the grounds that they are part-owners of law firms was always going to play badly.
In firms which have over 250 staff, it is hardly a secret that this rarefied constituency is overwhelmingly male – and stratospherically well-paid compared with the woman (and indeed man) on the Clapham Omnibus. According to sociologist Danny Dorling, you need a total gross household income of around £170,000 to be bracketed in the top 1% of British earners. Among this group, then, we are talking fractions of a fraction.
Inga Beale, chief executive of Lloyd’s of London, was right to point out that the structure of professional firms allows for a ‘carve-out’ that downplays the true extent of inequality in their businesses.
The legal sector is more sensitive than most to diversity issues. So it is to their credit that a number of leading law firms quickly realised that such a carve-out – while permissible – is untenable. Clifford Chance and Linklaters have shown the way in the magic circle and compared equity partners with employees, which has had the predictable effect of turning the pay gap into a chasm.
The pressure on their peers – and other top corporate firms in particular – to follow suit will surely prove irresistible.