18/06/2018 13:21 BST | Updated 19/06/2018 13:34 BST

Female Solicitors Outnumber Their Male Colleagues For The First Time Ever

There are now 366 more women than men.

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There is now more women solicitors than men in a landmark moment for the profession

Female solicitors now outnumber their male colleagues for the first time ever in England and Wales, according to new Law Society figures.

A 4% increase in those qualifying last year mean there are now 366 more women in the profession - at 69,995 - than men, who total 69,629.

The landmark moment comes in the centenary year of the first woman being admitted to the roll of solicitors in England and Wales, and as a number of prominent law firms in the capital have been embroiled in sexual harassment claims.

Law firms have also faced pressure around the gender pay gap, with some firms failing to release figures on equal pay, while others have exceeded the national aggregate median of men earning 18.4% more per hour.

Law Society president Joe Egan said: “With more women than men and a steadily growing proportion of solicitors from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background, it is more important than ever the profession recognises and rewards talent equally.”

Egan said every step “towards greater equality” would benefit businesses, clients and solicitors and was something the society had actively promoted through its diversity charter and other measures.

He added: “An important foundation is transparency, and this includes gender pay gap reporting. The Law Society supports the inclusion of partner pay alongside employee pay data in gender pay gap reporting as an important step towards greater equality.

“This will give firms a useful benchmark and enable an evidence-based action plan to tackle inequalities.”

Women now make up 50.1% of the 139,624 Practice Certificate (PC) holders, 48% of the 93,155 solicitors working in private practice and accounted for 61.6% of new admissions in 2016/17.

Female PC holders are also on average five years younger than their male counterparts.

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The law profession continues to battle equal pay issues.

Researchers claimed that, on present growth trends, within four years there would be about 10,000 more women practising in the profession than men. In 2010 women trailed men by the same figure, the Times reported.

The profession is also becoming increasingly ethically diverse, the report said. Just over 71% of lawyers in England and Wales are white, compared with 87% of the UK population.

Those with south Asian ethnic backgrounds make up the largest non-white group, accounting for 8.2% of the profession and solicitors from African and African-Caribbean ethnic backgrounds make up 2.2%, with other ethnic origins accounting for 2.5%. 

The Law Society said 16.5% of PC holders whose ethnicity is known  are from BAME groups and almost two-fifths of those accepted on to first degree law courses for 2017/18 are BAME students.

The decision by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to move its admissions data online meant many students were now not opting to record their ethnicity, making diversity more difficult to track. 

“As a consequence, it will grow increasingly difficult to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion approaches,” Egan said.

“As the professional body for solicitors, we want to see a sector that leads the way on promoting genuine equality across all workplaces. Transparency, monitoring and evaluation are essential components of any effective long-term strategy to achieve greater equality at all levels of the solicitor profession.”