The New Zealand Law Society has announced its new Gender Equality Charter committed to equalising treatment of lawyers across all genders. Law firms that sign up to the policy will be expected to ensure that male lawyers receive just as much harassment, belittlement, and unwanted sexual attention as female and gender-diverse lawyers currently receive.
“The legal profession has been talking about making the law a safe place to work and committing to eliminating harassment for decades now. Recent revelations have shown that that has accomplished very little. Ultimately we had to adopt a more realistic way of achieving equality,” a Law Society spokesperson said.
The goals are ambitious but will be phased in. Male lawyers are overwhelmingly the people perpetrating these abuses and making the law an unsafe place to work. The Charter imposes a realistic goal of making harassment 50% more equally spread over the next three years. By 2024 the Charter will require all summer clerks to be at equal risk from senior partners.
“This will not require firms to take any significant steps to address things like firm culture, or confront senior lawyers who are known to be problematic. Rather, it will just require an internal refocusing of existing harassment resources. Given the inertia on this issue by the profession as a whole we think this new Charter will be welcomed by lawyers.”
A spokesperson from the Auckland Women’s Lawyers Association approved the move saying: “Male lawyers have been consistently abysmal in their conduct towards women. We think that it will require very little effort on their part to be abysmal to all genders, including other males.”