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International Women's Day and the Rule of Law

March 08, 2021 (4 min read)

By Ian McDougall, President, LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the Rule of Law is the foundation for the development of peaceful, equitable, and prosperous societies. One of the four key pillars of our definition of the Rule of Law is Equality Under the Law, and on Monday, March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day 2021 around the world.

Fortunately, women now make up increasing proportions of the global legal profession yet there is still a long way to go. Progress differs dramatically by culture and nation. 2019 represented the first 100 years since women were allowed to practice as solicitors. It was also the 40th anniversary of the UN Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. LexisNexis partnered with the Law Society of England & Wales on their “Women in Leadership in Law” project. The toolkit created as part of the project confirmed the compelling business benefits for equal treatment and gender balance in the workplace. Equally, they evidenced that we are still significantly adrift of achieving equal treatment and gender balance. As a global organization, LexisNexis recognizes and applauds all efforts to address the global issue of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

In light of this, I am delighted to announce the launch of an ambitious new International Bar Association (IBA) global project, in collaboration with the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation, to study the lack of gender parity at the most senior levels of the legal profession. We are proud to partner with the IBA and to contribute business assets and skills, in this case, our technology, and our people, to this long-term study. The intention is to identify barriers and track the progress of achieving equal representation of females in the highest levels of private practice, in-house positions, the public sector, and judiciary. I congratulate the IBA on launching this project. Its potential to drive meaningful change towards the quest for gender equality in the legal profession is an important contribution to this major challenge. 

LexisNexis strongly believes diversity and inclusion are critical to our future. This is a great example of how we, as a global technology company, can leverage our resources to support this important initiative. I say again, an important element of the Rule of Law is equality.

We will be contributing our methodology expertise, data collection, analytics, and reporting tools for the study. In addition, our employee volunteers from around the world will assist with research and insight on the structure of the legal profession in various regions. The outreach will include interviews with women lawyers to collect additional data. Work will begin this month, with three case studies in South Africa, Spain, and England & Wales. 

The study will continue for nine years. This is truly a long-term commitment! Hopefully, it will provide a blueprint for achieving gender parity in senior legal roles by 2030. In time, research will focus on legally qualified women who work in legal roles across 15 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, North America, and Latin America.

Whilst previous studies have focused primarily on commercial law firms, the IBA study will be the first to provide global data from law firms, the Bar, government, public prosecution organizations, in-house lawyers, and the judiciary. Furthermore, the study will go beyond simply identifying challenges faced by female practitioners; determining what measures are being enacted, and tracking whether they are having an impact on gender diversity. The project is being led by IBA’s Legal Policy & Research Unit, D&I Council, with support and input from the Women Lawyers’ Interest Group.

Also, the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation has taken part in the “Video Relay” organized by World Bank, targeting the reforms which can be made to advance women in the workplace.  The Video Relay is part of the World Bank’s launch of its 2021 Women, Business, and the Law Report.  The LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation will be working with the UN Foundation and World Bank to review and target laws that impede women, and we will work to analyze and change those laws in whatever country in the world they can be found (or not!).

In addition to this, there will be numerous events held in celebration of International Women’s Day. LexisNexis Middle East will hold some virtual programs, with distinguished women leaders discussing the changing roles of women in law and business. They’ll provide their insights and experiences as leading women, sharing the challenges and opportunities they have faced throughout their careers. It will be helpful to many to see how they have overcome obstacles, what inspired them, and what led them to positions of authority. All of these efforts support our commitment to diversity and inclusion, and to advancing the Rule of Law across the globe.