Are we there yet? Best practices for diversity and inclusion in Australia
This article reports on the findings of a pilot research project investigating current best practices, operating within national law firms in Australia, that support women lawyers in their advancement to partnership and other leadership positions. The project responds to the significant under-representation of women in senior positions within the legal profession, and their higher rates of attrition. Academic research and professional body reports suggest that current diversity and inclusion initiatives across the private sector are not resulting in significant change to advancement, retention and attrition of women in the legal profession. However, work done by the Women Lawyers' Association of New South Wales (WLANSW) in Australia, through the Data Comparison Project (DCP), indicates that some firms have made better progress than others. Building on the DCP, this article presents the findings of a pilot project involving in-depth interviews with four of the top-achieving national law firms in Australia on gender equity criteria. It finds that these firms are collectively engaging with many of the best practice initiatives for diversity and inclusion recommended by the current national and international research and scholarship, and in some instances go beyond international best practice. What is apparent, however, is that the current best practices have yet to achieve significant advancement of women, or to break through the glass ceilings that continue to operate for women in large Australian law firms.