New Zealand Law Society - Women’s Suffrage Day milestone: ideal time to reflect on gender equality in the workplace

Women’s Suffrage Day milestone: ideal time to reflect on gender equality in the workplace

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Today marks 125 years since women gained the right to vote in New Zealand.

The first female lawyer to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court, was Ethel Benjamin on 4 May, 1897.

In April this year, the Law Society released the Gender Equality Charter to the law profession. So far 75 legal workplaces have signed up to the Charter, which equates to over 1700 lawyers.

The voluntary charter is an initiative of the Law Society’s Women’s Advisory Panel that was set up to look at ways to support the retention and advancement of women in the legal profession. It also aims to address pay equity and encourage the implementation of unconscious bias training for all lawyers and key staff.

Law Society President, Kathryn Beck says Women’s Suffrage day is a day every New Zealander should be proud of.

“We led the way as the first country to give women the vote and in the law profession we have a similar movement gaining momentum with the Gender Equality Charter,” she says.

Ms Beck says gaining 75 signatories in just six months indicates a strong desire for cultural change.

“The Charter can create and build equal opportunities for everyone working in the law profession and help balance the numbers of those holding the senior management positions where women are still strongly outnumbered by men. That’s the type of environment all lawyers should want to work in and the reaction we’ve been getting to the Gender Equality Charter is testament to that,” Kathryn Beck says.

The Law Society aims to secure 100 signatories to the Gender Equality Charter by the end of the year. New Zealand currently has 13,020 practising lawyers.