A little bit of encouragement goes a very long way with junior lawyers
Jane Keir, senior partner at law firm Kingsley Napley, also says flexible working is effective and promotes staff loyalty.
Why are there so few women in top positions?
It is a question of retention. Take for example, the legal profession. We know that over sixty percent of entrants to the solicitor’s profession are women. We know that forty-nine percent of all solicitors who hold current practicing certificates are women. Yet according to the Lawyer Top 100, UK Law Firms list only twenty-two percent of women are making it in to partnership. I believe the answer lies in making flexible working work. Flexible workers need to be supported within their teams as most often it is women with childcare responsibilities who ask to work flexibly. If they feel supported they will stay in the profession and will occupy more of the top positions.
Have you experienced the so-called glass ceiling or glass cliff?
Quite the reverse in that I have always been encouraged to seek promotion, not just in business management but as a divorce lawyer. There is no form of positive discrimination at Kingsley Napley and in the partnership forty-nine percent of our partners are women.
What advice can you give to women wanting to make it into senior management?
Women need to be more assertive. We are so good at what we do. They are extremely good at getting what they want for their children and families and they need to be just as effective in the workplace and not be slow about seeking and accepting promotion.
Who has helped you rise to the top ?
Christopher Murray, my former senior partner at Kingsley Napley, always encouraged me to take on the role of senior partner. He gave me confidence and self-belief, two vital qualities which we can so easily pass on to other women and men. A little bit of encouragement goes a very long way with junior lawyers, some of whom may be struggling to find their confidence so it is vital to keep an eye at all times on your colleagues and give that encouragement when needed.
What does your firm do to support women?
We place great importance on individual appraisals for everyone at Kingsley Napley. I appraise all fifty partners. We support men and women alike. Flexible working is effective and we get loyalty back in spades. The top two positions, senior and managing partner, are both held by women. Our turnover went up by 8.7 percent last year and I do not think we have ever been in better shape. Making it work for women makes us very attractive to the next generation of lawyers coming up as well.
Is it all about gender or is it really more diversity?
It is about both. Diversity is obviously wider and all important in our society and the workplace.