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Women hold only 15% of Partner positions across top tier Law Firms in Denmark

Vasily Koloda  X Brii2 Qa M Unsplash

Article posted by Ella Watson

​Due to an ongoing demand for equality, many companies throughout the world see diversifying their workforce as a key element in their future business strategies. When it comes to gender diversity, the world looks to Denmark as a pioneer in this change and many continue to take important steps forward. Despite this, the number of women at Senior level within Danish law firms is vastly disproportionate.

  • Women make up approximately 15% of Partner positions across top tier Law Firms in Denmark.

  • Only 19% of Board Members in Denmark’s top law firms are female.

Notably, at a lower level, Danish law firms harbour a diverse working environment when it comes to Gender. There is a generally equal divide between male and female workers. It is only at management and senior level that an imbalance becomes obvious.

This is a problem because:

The more diverse a team is, the more successful it is. This has been proven time and time again across numerous sectors.
McKinsey & Company gathered data that proves companies with more women in senior executive and board roles have multiple advantages over those that do not. Some of these advantages include:

  • More profitability.

  • Better ability to attract and retain top talent.

  • Better ability to grow and maintain their competitive advantage.

This is further reinforced by Boston Consulting Group who recently found that the value and stock prices of gender-diverse and inclusive companies typically outperform those of their male-dominated rivals. They also tend to have higher revenues.

Successful businesses are successful innovators. Unsurprisingly, employing the same person time and time again will inevitably have the same outcome. It is increasingly proven that a diverse group of people bring new perspectives and approaches to a company that will almost always outperform their rivals. With greater profitability, talent retention and faster growth, there are few reasons why having a more gender diverse working environment is not everyone’s priority.

So Why Does the Problem Exist?

1) Inherent problems with external hiring practices:

  • There is unconscious bias persistent in the recruitment process.

  • Hiring solely based on track record rather than potential to succeed in any given role.

  • Recruiters rely on referrals and established network, which are predominantly male.

2) Job descriptions are ‘wish lists’ which focus on the ‘perfect candidate’. In general, women are less likely to apply for jobs:

  • Women typically apply for jobs when they feel they meet all the prerequisites. On average, a man will still apply for a job even if they meet only two of them.

  • Language used in job descriptions are notoriously discouraging for female applicants. For example, “exhaustive”, “enforcement” and “fearless” typically attract male applicants, while phrases such as “transparent”, “catalyst” and “in touch with” are seen as having a more feminine tone.

  • Research based on an analysis of hundreds of millions of job adverts has shown that the word "manage" encourages more men than women to apply for the role.

  • Requirements versus non-mandatory wants, many adverts wrongfully describe role expectations.

3) Data Indicates Other Issues, Linkedin statistics show how external recruitment can work against increases in female hiring:

  • Women are 26% less likely to ask for a referral.

  • Women are 16% less likely than men to apply to a job after viewing it.

  • Women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men.

  • Recruiters tend to open men’s profiles more often (women 13% less) but reach out to men and women equally after looking at profiles.

In combination, the above factors can lead to the ‘recycling’ of predominantly male candidates.

However there are positive statistics which may help female hiring:

  • A similar male: female rate of interest in company culture before applying.

  • A similar male: female rate of ‘open to new opportunities’.

  • Women tend to be more interested in a salary range rather than fixed salary.

  • Benefits interest such as flexible working policies, parental leave, or healthcare are more significant for women.

  • Women are 16% more likely to get hired after applying to a job than men, and 18% more for senior roles.

What are the Solutions:

Of the leading Danish law firms, it is disappointing to see that only a couple are making any concerted efforts to change the environment,despite the universal recognition amongst female Partners that there is a problem with diversity.

Despite this, there are some encouraging ideas to be explored.

1) Changing the Internal Structure and culture of the Company and understanding employee motivations:

  • Make concerted efforts to put women into leadership positions and create environments in which everybody has a reasonable platform to succeed. Having spoken with female Partners at several leading Danish law firms, the uphill struggle is changing the mindset of the sector and giving young women the platform to believe they can succeed.

    All female partners talked about the need for more role models in the sector. A leading female Partner at Gorrissen Federspiel spoke about the importance of talking to the younger generation of female lawyers, underlining the importance of encouraging females, even whilst at university, that Partner is a possibility and being a role model for those going forward within the company.

  • Anzurra’s survey concluded females value career progression the most with 65% saying it was the most important aspect to consider in a role. Interestingly, males value work life balance with 48% saying it was the most important factor when considering a new position. Only 8% of men and women see remuneration as the most important factor in a position.

2) Addressing external hiring, recruitment solutions:

  • Sourcing techniques remove bias to attract both male and female applicants, avoiding both conscious and unconscious bias in the recruitment process. A female partner of Gorrissen Federspiel also underlined how difficult but integral it was to acknowledge and tackle unconscious bias in a predominantly masculine environment.

  • Clients can develop unbiased job descriptions.

  • Longlist based on a combination of demonstrated ability and potential.

  • Present the shortlist to clients with candidate anonymity.

Overall, integrating women at senior level has time and again proven to increase innovation and the ability to attract and retain talent. Through more diverse decision-making it has also resulted in increased profits. Introducing fairer and unbiased hiring practices as well as creating amore supportive working culture will improve the disappointing gender diversity within Danish Law Firms.

How far are you going to truly assess diversity and inclusion within your business? How committed are you to a diverse and inclusive hiring process and the value that it will create? How diverse is your company and leadership team?

Anzurra - Denmark's Leading Legal Executive Search Firm - Committed to Improving Companies Through Hiring the Best and Most Diverse Talent in the Market. For more information contact us on +45 32 74 15 97 or at hello@anzurra.com