While some might dismiss the retention and advancement of women in the profession as a ‘women’s issue’ or something that does not affect them or their practice, the reality is this is a serious issue for the profession as a whole.
The key to success for any firm, company or even country is the ability to attract, develop and retain the best talent. Talent shortages are a real problem both internationally and within New Zealand. In its 2013 report ‘Talent Edge New Zealand – Worrisome Gaps’ Deloitte indicated that 83% of organisations reported that they were experiencing talent shortages that were impacting on business results. In 2022, there is still a well-documented talent and skills shortage, exacerbated by the impacts of Covid-19. This "talent crunch" is referred to in Deloitte's 2022 report "State of the State New Zealand 2022”.
With women making up more than half of those entering the legal profession it is essential that this talent pool is not wasted. In the words of the World Economic Forum ‘maximising access to female talent is a strategic imperative for business’. Any firm or organisation not aiming for gender-diverse leadership is limiting its pool of available talent and also missing out on clear business benefits.
Greater gender diversity in the legal profession has proven financial and strategic benefits. There is mounting evidence that companies with a gender balance, particularly in governance and leadership roles, perform better both organisationally and financially. In the (then) Ministry of Women’s Affairs 2013 paper ‘Realising the opportunity: Addressing New Zealand’s leadership pipeline by attracting and retaining talented women’ it was suggested that gender balanced leadership can bring great dividends, including diversity of thought; better decision making, and insights into customer needs and critical markets; improved customer satisfaction and increased competitive advantage.
This 2020 Harvard Division of Continuing Education blog confirmed many of these benefits, and in reference to a decade of research by McKinsey and Leanin.org noted:
A growing body of research now demonstrates fairly conclusively that a true commitment to diversity generally—and gender equity more specifically—can have concrete financial benefits.
Diversity in all respects brings a wider range of views, experiences and innovative solutions which is beneficial for business, particularly for clients.
Additionally, firms and other organisations make substantial investments in their human capital. The cost of recruitment, education and training of employees is significant and will be wasted if they are not able to retain those employees they have invested heavily in.