Five professionals analyze the formula emerging as an alternative to assure a larger participation of women in high positions.
Within hours of the historic assembly to be held by the Chilean Bar Association, which seeks to amend the by-laws to assure the participation of more women its council (see box), in Diario Financiero we wanted to know if equality and, in particular, gender quotas, are also a matter of discussion inside law firms. Women partners and specialists from different law firms agree that it is an increasing debate and, in some cases, within the available formulas, quotes emerge as an option, considering that today still exists inequality of opportunities in the profession.
“The field is not even, mainly because requirements made pursuant to genders are different, we shall prove more to reach important positions … the ones taking decisions are men and they prefer to choose in positions of power the ones that are similar to them, whom they may read easily and do not see as a threat”, states MB Abogados partner, Carolina Menichetti. Upon this reality, establish mandatory quotes to face this gap is for most people the most effective way to obtain immediate changes.
“The ideal would be to promote the participation and retention of women’s talent, without the need of quotas. However, considering the current situation, not implementing a quotas system would make the progress very slow, with the implying loss of talent”, affirms Menichetti.
Susana Borzutzky from Vargas, Barruel y Borzutsky Abogados, adds that this kind of policies shall be implemented together with internal protocols or trainings, “allowing that all the members of the organization understand the benefits of having women in all organizational stages and the human value that equality represents”, he says.
There is no always agreement
But not every woman believes in this tool. The partner of Vermehren y Cia, Leyla Hirmas, states that laws or rules imposing the obligation to have a given number of women, “play against us”. “I do not agree with assigning quotas, but rather to give opportunities both to women and men to demonstrate their professionalism and work capacity, and that these are the base of selection criteria”, she states.
Large law firms are also part of this discussion. Carey’s partner, Lorena Pavic, affirms that in the case of her firm the focus is not in quotas, but in mentorship and flexibility. “The sooner we focus in developing leadership skills and making the work and merits of female lawyers visible inside the firm, a virtuous circle will be generated for promotion”, she adds.
The partner of Baker McKenzie, Valentina Venturelli, believes that the matter of assigning quotas in the firms shall be analyzed on a case by case basis. In Baker – she states – this matter has been solved a long ago with the mechanism “aspirational quotas”, which establishes the commitment of increasing women representation at the level of partner and leadership positions of the firm, adapting to the different realities where the international firm operates. “Through different programs, the firm promotes and gives tools to make women representation possible and make it increasingly better in all levels, always as a goal and not as an imposition”, she states.
“In the past, the legal world has been predominantly male, but things are changing”, Lorena Pavic Carey.
“Even though quotas do not seem to be sustainable in time, they may allow an initial step to make female participation better”, Valentina Venturelli Baker McKenzie.
“It is impossible to believe that equality of opportunities exists when the percentage of women partners in law firms is extremely low”, Carolina Menichetti MB Abogados.
“The strength with which changes are requested and listened will achieve that the lack of parity is categorized as politically incorrect”, Susana Borzutzky Vargas, Barruel y Borzutzky Abogados.
“It is necessary and positive to have more presence of women, but this should take place due to skills more than to quotas”, Leyla Hirmas Vermehren y Cia.
Amendment of Chilean Bar Association’s By-Laws
This Tuesday an assembly of the Chilean Bar Association will be held, in which an unprecedented change to the by-laws to improve female participation in its council will be voted. Today, only 3 women out of 19 members are part of such council. The initiative is supported by these five interviewed lawyers.
The changes proposed by the project were supported by all the council members and more than 200 lawyers that are members of the Bar Association signed the motion of amendment. Such project includes:
- Lists of candidates shall be comprised of 50% male candidates and 50% female candidates. This amendment is not limited in time.
- The next two elections of the Bar Association Council (2019-2021) shall have a guaranteed percentage of elected members in a proportion of 40% and 60%, of one gender over the other.
- The third election, in 2023, will use quotas for elected members in the same proportion to the female lawyers that are members of the Chilean Bar Association in that year.
200 lawyers signed the motion to amend the by-laws of the Bar Association.