Although in Spain 58.5% of lawyers are women, today it is a profession with a long way to go in equality. This high ratio has not achieved representation in professional firms –where only 5.3% are women– or in bodies such as the Constitutional Court, since of the 12 members, only two are judges. In this context, Woman in a Legal World or WLW, for its acronym in English, a project marked Spain in which women of great recognition and prestige in the legal sector try to retain female talent, enhance it and mentor future generations, in order to guide them on the arduous path of the legal profession. This association, which was born three years ago, will land this April in the Canary Islands, where it intends to immerse itself in the day-to-day life of the two public universities of the Archipelago.
“I have suffered what insularity penalizes.” It is one of the reasons why Pilar Cuesta, a lawyer for the State Council and a member of the WLW Advisory Council, has proposed creating a headquarters for this association also in the Archipelago. With this support, women who are studying a Law Degree at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULGPC) or at the University of La Laguna (ULL) will have the possibility of accessing the mentoring of a professional to guide them on the arduous path of law. “When you are studying you are usually confused and not knowing how you can proceed next,” says Cuesta, who highlights the importance of advising young women about these concerns, both to retain talent and to enhance it.
In addition, this aid has two aspects, since it establishes a collaboration network in the university center itself in which the young women study. “We mentor the final year students, and they, in turn, offer help to the first year students,” she explains. At the same time, they are offered the possibility of being able to contact women who have broken the glass ceiling and who have become female references in the sector in Spain “so that they can chat with them and comment on their doubts,” says the lawyer.
Only 5.3% of the managing partners of law firms are women
However, transferring an initiative like this to the Canary Islands not only allows strengthening the leadership of the new generations of women, but will also serve to forge relationships between lawyers, lawyers or magistrates already consolidated in the Archipelago and those who work in the archipelago. rest of Spain. Facilitating this union has a clear objective: to make visible the work of women in the legal sector throughout the country.
And the fact is that the data show that, as in other professions, there is a glass ceiling in the professional practice of law in our country. Women represent 36.3% of the Superior Courts of Justice, 38.3% of the Provincial Courts and 30.5% of the General State Attorney. “In the public sphere, with the opposition, which is an objective system, accessibility is greater,” says Cuesta, who indicates that the scenario is less encouraging in areas where places are not up for public tender.
Difficult access to addresses
The deans of the bar associations amount to 14.4%, the female and male directors of law firms represent 19.1% and 5.3%, respectively. The lack of equality in the partners of large law firms is not an exclusive problem in our country. In the UK, the share of female members is around 25%; in Germany, 10%, and in the United States, 20%. It is a fact that in Spain, as in many other countries, the legal sector is dominated by a male leadership model. It is a sector that, even in the current era, remains configured according to the preferences of men who practiced law in very distant times, in which women had practically no possibility of studying or practicing and, much less, of contributing to decide the most convenient professional practice model.
The initiative connects professionals and law students
And although women have been making an increasing space in the sector, managing to access the career without major problems, there are still situations that lead them to occupy a generally secondary role in the highest levels of power, responsibility and pay at most law firms and other legal sector organizations. It should be noted that, according to the latest statistics published by the General Council of Spanish Lawyers (CGAE), the salary gap reaches 23% between both genders.
This is how WLW was born which, as stated on its website, seeks to “have female referents in all areas and legal specialties, at discussion tables, in the media, in business school cloisters, in chairs and in the councils ”.
To achieve this, their main objective is to establish a networking network, in which they can connect, improve their social skills among professionals, inspire each other, and “help those who come behind”. As of today, the association has 152 women, 300 mentors, 200 young people being mentored and holds 18 meetings annually.
The wage gap between men and women in the sector rises 23%
The association also develops projects to make female leadership visible in the legal sector and creates collaboration networks through various programs. Examples of this are the Sustainability Commission, the Equality Observatory and the Forum of Counselors, among other bodies of the association that prepare reports and studies on diversity, access of women to positions of responsibility and best practices for the implementation of the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda. Along with the above, they have also created Women in a Legal World Young, in which to integrate young jurists with experience in the sector and less than 35 years, with similar structure and objectives, who are working with us to give visibility to talent and work towards excellence. Finally, the association highlights the work of its members through the Women in Legal World Awards that had their first edition on October 30, 2019. Several decorations were awarded, in the categories ‘Honor’, ‘Woman of the Year’ , ‘Values’ and ‘Equality’.