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Less Pay More Jobs For Female Barristers


This headline is from an article published in the “The Australian” newspaper today (Sept 18, page 6)

Pay issues outstanding? Equal work for equal pay. Dismisal and pregnancy is a issue for high achivers

Less Pay More Jobs For Female Barristers

We at A Whole New Approach P/L are not lawyers or barristers. So why am I writing about female barristers pay? Not my business you could say. A young female barrister approached me, knowing the work we do and that we are active in workplace commentary. Complaining about the disparity in pays compared to her male colleagues. (day rates). I said write something yourself get it out there, particularly in the era of social media. She was afraid to, as she did not want to be seen as trouble maker and she would get less work. So I’m writing it, I had written on this before.

Less Pay, More Jobs, For Female Barristers. I wrote an article on the blog on exactly this topic (16th of Sept) how more females are graduating, entering various professions. How they get less pay than their male equivalents.
Its ironic, the legal industrial that represents people / workers in discrimination and sexism claims doesn’t treat its own workforce equally.
It’s the old adage “do as I say, not what I do”
Still small steps. I raised the issue the other day, now “The Australian” is publishing material on it, at least its getting more and more in the conversation.

Its not just about the pay rates

Its not just about the pay rates. It flows onto promotion, how employees get treated. If you can’t even get equal treatment in the workplace regarding pay, do you seriously think you get equal treatment when comes to performance, discipline issues, dismissals? Who gets the good briefs? who gets the higher profile work? who gets to appear in the higher courts? The past preference it went to males, but all these factors in turn don’t give female barristers the same opportunities, it effects longer term promotion opportunities and clearly pay rates. You don’t make a inexperienced barrister a judge or Kings Counsel.

It seems common place for male lawyers to take the Friday afternoon, to have a long lunch with their friends (referred to as networking). A female lawyer wants to go home to see her kids in the afternoon after working extraordinary hours for the week and she runs the risk of being laughed at. She is seen as “soft”, “not committed”, not focused.

Female and exhausted

I remember years ago at a Fair Commission hearing, and the lawyer for the employer was a female and she looked exhausted. Me, I was no fan of hers but she looked terrible and I was concerned indicating to a seat for her to sit down. I asked if she was alright. She told be she was on maternity leave, I asked the obvious what are you doing here. Her male partners at the firm had told she could take as long as she likes for maternity leave but she must keep her billables up. This is disgraceful behaviour, or is it, it just comes with the territory/, the position, that’s the way it is if you want the bigger dollars?

Accusing and finger pointing. Gone are the days of women just have to sit there and accept it. Everybody has rights, its how you excise them is the key. Many employees still don’t take action in unacceptable circumstances because they worry how it effects their career. This is one of the factors why women don’t complain about sexual harassment. Would the same male stick his finger into another males face? I don’t think so, this is sex discrimination

How would a male be treated

How would a male be treated if he needed personal time for mental illness, a physical affliction, take care of a terminally ill child. The same?, I don’t think so. Many employees are now looking past the wage, the promotional prospects at the company when considering where they want to work. They are now wanting to know the employers green credentials, community agenda, company’s polices on work life balance, diversity programs. Its driven by a young generation of young professional’s, not be the still middle aged white male decision makers.

This approach applies in a lot of professional workplaces. It is slowly changing, its inevitable, why the wait, act now!! Call us to chat, or do something about it. Employees of any gender can take the employers discriminately behaviour in relation to wages, conditions, promotion issues to the Fair work Commission (F8C application). In the alternative there are equal opportunity and human rights commissions. Anti dismission boards in every state and territory in some form. You have rights, its how you excise them is the key.

Equal pay brings allot of benefits for all concerned. Increased productivity, less discrimination claims, less unlawful dismissals, less resignations. Increased harmony in the workplace. However to some degree this conflicts with typically competitive industry. Where everybody strives to get ahead, seniority means more fees, more income.

Historical thinking, less pay, more jobs

Historically, commentators and academics consider two theories to explain the gender pay gap. The first, human capital theory, puts the emphasis on women’s choices to explain why their pay is less than men’s pay. It hypothesizes that individual characteristics or qualifications. Age, education, training, work experience and history. These are responsible for differences in pay between all workers.

This theory says that some workers are paid less because, for example, they lack the needed level of education, training or work experience compared to their competitors. The theory further suggests that women’s wages tend to be lower because they choose to work fewer hours. Due to family and childcare responsibilities, choose occupations and industries that offer lower wages. however more flexibility or expect their career paths to be discontinuous.

All those choices lead to women accumulating less human capital; as a result, the theory goes, women are paid less than men because they do not achieve the qualifications required to assume positions in true competition with men. What has been discussed recently that women do not accumulate the same superannuation in their lifetime as men.

We need to work towards more than token diversity. We all need to get out of our comfort zone, contribute to the debate, make a difference as they say. Diversity has a lot of benefits. The sharing of idea’s, adopting different thought processes, different skill sets. What happended to the clueless worker


The second theory, called the discrimination theory, hypothesizes that the discriminatory practices in the workplace are the main culprits of the pay gap. It suggests that discriminatory practices lead to differential treatments. Which then may lead to biased assessments and expectations. Reflected in productivity, performance evaluation, and appraisal towards one group of workers over others. Intentional and unintentional discriminatory practices are common. (male barristers tend to get more senior briefs and longer trials).

Lets face it we are all more comfortable within our own socioeconomic groupings. What’s not supposed to happen this is reflected in the workplace. ie “the boys club”, speaking a particular language to the exclusion of others. Some laws firms now, want the name, school and university left off the resume as part of the selective process. So the selection process is non biased, giving females, non private school applicants and less credentialed university graduates a fair go. Having stated that we have noticed particularly in Melbourne and Sydney that if your not from the right side of town that the chances of being employed in the legal profession, certainly the top tier firms is somewhat diminished. Unfortunly there is no discrimination on the basis of social origin that prohibits this practice.

Researchers found that when female musicians auditioned for symphony orchestras, their chance of being hired went up when they auditioned behind a screen, concealing their identity from their interviewers. Predetermined discrimination is hard wired into many. The more it is discussed the more individuals can fight it.

Diversity, what’s wrong with that? It can create companies of character, non stereotyped individuals. It can infuse competitiveness, create companies of values, that are ethically driven, that are admired by others. Everybody wants to work for. An article on speaking up that might be helpful, click here

Conclusion to: Less Pay, More Jobs, For Female Barristers

We are A Whole New Approach P/l, we are not lawyers, but the nations leading workplace advisors. I hope “Less Pay, More Jobs, For Female Barristers” was of interest to you. If you have concerns, questions, worried about unequal treatment, your salary compare to others? Call us. We are leaders in workplace commentary, diversity and equity in the workplace. give us a call, its free, confidential, prompt and honest. All FWC matters, including unfair dismissals, general protections, workplace disputes. We work in all states, including Vic, NSW, Qld, Tas, SA, WA.

Call us for free, confidential advice 1800 333 666

AWDR is a web site owned by us, 150 pages of good workplace advice and commentary, enjoy

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