New Zealand Law Society - Law firm chief executive calls on others to commit to Gender Equality Charter

Law firm chief executive calls on others to commit to Gender Equality Charter

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A national law firm that has its main headquaters in Hamilton is calling on other Waikato law firms to support the Law Society's Gender Equality Charter.

Tompkins Wake chief executive Jon Calder spoke about his firm's commitment to the Charter and the work it is doing to meet the Charter requirements at an Institute of Directors lunch earlier this month.

Headshot of Jon Calder
Jon Calder. 

“We all have a part to play when it comes to improving diversity and inclusivity in the legal profession, to understand and address the barriers to achieving equal opportunities in our workplaces,” he says.

The Gender Equality Charter is a set of commitments aimed at improving the retention and advancement of women lawyers. Charter signatories are asked to meet these commitments over a two-year period and report on progress to the Law Society.

The Charter was launched by the Law Society in April last year and has now been adopted by 119 legal workplaces across the country. Those signatories represent more than 2900 lawyers of the approximately 13500 that hold practising certificates in New Zealand.

Mr Calder says continuous improvement underpins the firm's focus and with one female partner at board level, the firm has work to do.

“But there’s also more to the Charter than gender balance at a governance level. The charter focuses on many facets that impact everyone at Tompkins Wake. We’ve begun to implement unconscious bias training for all lawyers and management, we encourage and support flexible working arrangements that enable our team to balance professional and personal responsibilities. In fact, 25% of our staff are on flexible work arrangements, including four partners. And that’s something that we implemented as far back as 2005," he says.

He says gender equality and inclusion in senior legal roles is embedded in the firm’s culture and how it works.

"85% of our associates are female, and five of our last seven partner promotions have been female," he says.

Other aspects of the Charter that Tompkins Wake has embedded include conducting annual gender pay audits and taking action to close any gender pay gaps, reviewing areas of their practice with a gender equality and inclusion lens (such as recruitment, retention and promotion practices), and ensuring equitable briefing and instruction practices.  

“My challenge to other Waikato law firms and, in fact all law firms, is not point scoring, but rather a wish to see others commit to helping improve culture. I also want to encourage those firms with positive actions already in place to tell their stories. This is not a box-ticking compliance exercise. It’s a collective commitment to making tangible improvements to our sector for the people who work in it. I’ve been open about sharing the work we’ve done and are doing with other firms and have opened some positive dialogue to help support collective improvement,” Jon Calder says.

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