How important is gender to an ambitious law firm’s brand? Increasingly so, reckons City outfit Clyde & Co, which has launched a programme to boost the media profile of its women.
Female lawyers comprise under 20% of Clyde spokespeople quoted in the media, even though women now account for nearly half of fee-earners and a quarter of partners. ‘It’s my belief women are sometimes more reticent than men to put themselves forward for personal brand-building opportunities,’ says partner and board member Liz Jenkins. ‘We want to challenge the status quo.’
Clyde and Jenkins are to be commended for their frankness. The firm’s modish management speak has attracted a few snide comments, and it would be all too easy to condemn the programme as patronising. Yet the firm is surely on to something that extends beyond corporate brand-building.
I recall a report some years ago on a league table of the legal profession’s 100 ‘stars’. Of 46 women featured, not one had put themselves forward.
At the Gazette, I have long bemoaned a persistent imbalance in solicitor feedback both in published correspondence and ‘below the line’. Even now, over 80% of letters to the editor come from men – and men submit many more pitches for articles, too.
It is said women are less likely to consider a media profile as important to ‘credentialise’ (horrible word, but apposite) their status as professionals. Commendable? In a sense, but it is not always enough to be great at your job to ‘get on’. Often you have to put yourself out there.
I am aware that sounds patronising too, but Clyde has kickstarted a useful debate here. While women solicitors may now outnumber men, parity in the top ranks is a mile off. As long as male lawyers continue to hog the airwaves and the op-ed columns, that disparity will continue to be subliminally validated.
As we celebrate the centenary of women being allowed to qualify, the visibility of ambitious female solicitors is certain to come in for discussion at a banner Law Society event in June. ‘The power of gender equality to transform the business of law: an international symposium’ takes place in London on 20-21 June.