Publish date: 02 April 2024

This year’s International Women’s Day theme #inspireinclusion got me thinking about my own experiences as a woman in the legal profession, and the challenges I faced after having children and working to regain my presence in a workplace dominated by the ambitious.

A Law Society 2022 report found that women made up 55% of the 13,985 legal practitioners in Queensland.[1] The overall conclusion was that female solicitors have outnumbered male solicitors since 2018.

So, with more women entering the profession, how can we make the journey a little easier for women who are juggling both their role in the workplace and at home? The transition from the ‘stay at home’ mum to lawyer is certainly not without its challenges.  

My first daughter entered the world a mere 12 hours after I clocked off from “lawyering” for the day. I had just 16 weeks with her before returning to the office and on my return to the office, I faced the juggle of requests for flexibility and lactation breaks.

After some stressful, anxiety-inducing conversations, compromises were made by my then employer, and I was grateful to have the ability to work from home in a hybrid format. This pre-dated the COVID-19 ‘norm’ and that now appears to work quite well. 

Working from home did not affect my productivity nor my seniority in any way. In fact, it helped empower me to know that I could achieve a better work-life balance and be home earlier, have my daughter eating dinner at an appropriate hour, and in bed earlier.

So, what changes should we be making to better enable women to work and compete in an ambitious workplace? As well as retain talent in an industry that females are gravitating towards?

It has me pondering Sweden’s approach where childcare is considered a public responsibility, with parents afforded 480 days (over 12 months!) maternity leave per child and at 80% of their salary for the first 390 days. Not to mention the free preschool for children from 3 years of age!

For Australia, I’d like to see the following for future parents:

  • Normalising flexible work arrangements – this would include part-time and hybrid working arrangements of flexing of the ‘normal’ work hours
  • Access for both men and women who are the primary carer to paid parental leave at full-time salary rate for at least 24 weeks (equivalent to the government paid parental leave scheme)
  • Increasing encouragement for men to take leave and be the primary carer.

I firmly believe that fully flexible and hybrid work policies without a rigid adherence to ‘mandated’ numbers of days in the office will drive change towards an increase in women in senior professional positions within law firms and reduce barriers experienced by women in the profession to reach the directorship and partnership positions.

[1] 2022 National Profile of Solicitors, Final, Urbis Pty Ltd 26 April 2023. 

Candice Heisler
Candice Heisler
Senior Associate
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