The International Bar Association is embarking on a landmark project to uncover the root causes of gender inequality at the most senior levels of the legal profession.

The nine-year project is titled 50/50 by 2030 – a reference to the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goal No 5 on gender equality. It is being supported by the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation.

The project will involve data collection and analysis in 2021, 2024, 2027 and 2030 to see if gender equality measures are working. A blueprint will be drawn up by 2030 to achieve gender parity at the highest levels of private practice, in-house, the public sector and the judiciary. Research will be carried out in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America.

The project is being led by the IBA’s legal and policy research unit, diversity and inclusion council, with input from the association’s women lawyers’ interest group and Lexis Nexis Rule of Law Foundation.

IBA president Sternford Moyo said: ‘We need a global legal profession that not only understands and appreciates the need for diversity and gender equality but will take action to ensure their realisation. We cannot continue to have so few eminently qualified and capable women denied parity in senior roles. I have made understanding and effecting change in these areas priorities of my presidency of the IBA.’

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, director of the IBA’s human rights institute, said: ‘The law needs good women at the most senior levels; for too long women have been denied justice in aspects of their lives because the law was created from a male perspective and embedded in the fiction that the law is neutral.

'To secure just outcomes and public trust, the law in all our countries must change. I know from my international work that this is a global issue. We need more female lawyers at the top. More senior partners in law firms, more senior judges. The discourse on any subject is improved when it involves diverse voices. This is the route to real justice.’