by Dr. Geertje Tutschka
Renowned scholar Prof Sally Wheeler discusses the findings of her EU report on the Representation of Women and Men in Legal Professions Across the EU.
In 1919 the first woman was admitted to study law at the University of Vienna - a milestone in the history of women in law. Today, 100 years later, women are represented in all legal fields – but they are still facing challenges in their work life. So let’s take a closer look at the history of women in law in Austria.
Roughly half of all law graduates are women, many of them at the top of their class. Those who start a career in law leave their job and even the legal field entirely twice as often as their male counterparts. As a result the representation of women in senior partner and leadership roles, also in universities, is not nearly where it could and should be. Staying in law often means a reduced opportunity for promotions and considerably less remuneration in comparison to male colleagues.
An often-suggested way of dealing with the challenge of working in a law firm and maintaining a relationship is that one person pursues a career at a law firm, while the other person works only part-time or takes care of the children. Very often the reality is that if one person out of a couple chooses the option of working part-time or staying at home, it is usually the woman. And exactly this convention is not acceptable and has to be rethought.
Unfortunately, it’s a given fact that young lawyers, especially between 25 and 41, are constantly dropping out of objectively successful careers on their way to a potential partner position in big law firms. Therefore, we now want to take a closer look on the main reasons and how to prevent that from happening through giving advice on much needed improvement in the work space.
There are many opinions and arguments in the discussion about women’s advancement, often based purely on personal experience. They can be very individual and subjective, and may distort the view of the bigger picture. Maybe a closer look at the facts can help to clear up some beliefs that do not reflect reality. Luckily, there is a recent report for the EU parlament’s judicial committee that provides many insightful numbers, facts and analyses.
Nowadays it has become very demanding to combine a work life in a law firm, having aspirations to being in a successful position, with having plans of starting a family. In this blog I want to sketch out some possibilities how to overcome these barriers.
It is a shame to make this a subject of discussion, but, unfortunately, it is reality. The following steps should help to figure out whether a (law) company mistreats female associates or not.