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IWD 2024: A CEO's perspective on gender equality and diversity in the workplace
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

Many businesses are lauded for acknowledging the importance of gender equality, and progress has been made with the gender pay gap in Australia now 19%, the lowest on record. However, WGEA (Workplace Gender Equality Agency) recently published new data revealing the gender pay gap in companies with more than 100 employees. The findings present a grim outlook on the progress we have made to bridge gender inequality and show more than half of Aussie law firms have a gender pay gap below the sector average of 16.7% for the median base salary. 

It’s clear there’s more that needs to be done to close the gender pay gap, but it’s important to remember that this is just one of the many struggles women face in the workplace. Entrenched social norms, unconscious biases, and a lack of representation in senior roles create an invisible barrier for women looking to excel in the practice of law. In the tech industry, where gender imbalance remains a pertinent issue, women comprise just one-quarter of the tech workforce. 

A Passion for Equity

As the CEO of a global legal technology company, over my 20+ year career, I have seen the evolution of women’s roles and career progression in the workplace. My career began as an active-duty officer in the heavily male-dominated US military. After leaving the military, I worked in multiple roles in software technology Fortune 15 companies where I was frequently the only woman in the room, and often the only Asian woman. 

Who I am as a leader today and how I lead is rooted in my military background. Being the only female in a professional setting taught me many things, including the importance of leading diverse teams. In Australia, women make up half of the workforce but only 22% are CEOs (WGEA). According to McKinsey, companies with gender-diverse executive teams are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability. Companies with more than 30% women on their executive teams are significantly more likely to outperform those with fewer or no women executives. 

My passion for equity drives the mentorship I provide at Litera (and have throughout my career), as well as the technology we build that champions fairer ways of working. Providing young employees with access to mentorship programs will enable them to learn the ropes from distinguished leaders who match their aspirations and goals. These programs are the best way for young women in tech to learn from leaders who have similar backgrounds or experiences that are relevant to their goals and needs.

Using Technology to Level the Playing Field

This year’s International Women's Day campaign theme, #InspireInclusion, is a reminder to all organisations that providing equal opportunities is no longer enough. While equality focuses on providing all genders with equal opportunities, equity addresses the imbalanced social systems that often leave women at different levels of the playing field. 

Every woman should have access to equal opportunities to grow and progress in their career, and technology can help law firms ensure they are providing attorneys with equal opportunities. For example, Blank Rome uses Foundation, a knowledge management and experience tool, to ensure diversity within pitch teams. DEI initiatives are quickly becoming not just a nice-to-have but a demand from legal clients and within RFPs. By ensuring every qualified member of their firm is getting equal access to high-profile cases, Blank Rome can be confident all their employees are supported in their career growth. Brad Miller at Blank Rome said, “Having all of this information in Foundation helps provide deep insights into our diversity progress. Ultimately, we think it will help Blank Rome win more business.” 

While progress has been made, we still have work to do. To reach this goal, we must take action to ensure women are treated fairly, offered equal opportunities, and that pay gaps are addressed. We use technology to optimise our businesses in myriad ways — why not make equity one of them?