IBA Women Lawyers Committee launches toolkit to close gender gap in the legal profession

Toolkit guides law firms in establishing a mentorship program

IBA Women Lawyers Committee launches toolkit to close gender gap in the legal profession

The International Bar Association has launched the Women Lawyers’ Committee: Mentorship Toolkit to empower female legal professionals and address the gender gap at senior levels.

Divided into four sections, the toolkit provides detailed guidance for law firms to get started with a mentorship programme. Key advice from the toolkit includes:

  • Create a mentorship committee: Firms should have a committee in place that will follow up on the design, execution, results and analysis of the program, and to which participants can appeal
  • Set a clear structure: Defining the core elements of the program, such as the number of sessions required, the frequency and length of meetings, and how many pairs will join is key to success
  • Match mentors and mentees carefully: Both mentors and mentees should be subject to an application to assess their suitability for the program. Mentees should not be in a direct subordinate relationship to mentors and should not be part of the same practice group
  • Prepare topics for discussion in advance: Provide reading and/ or video materials for both mentors and mentees to prepare for each session. Topics for discussion could include client management, being part of a team, unconscious bias, diversity and managing working life as a parent

 “Steadfast commitment is required to achieving the goal of gender, and opportunity parity, but it is not an insurmountable task,” said Lise Lotte Hjerrild, chair of the IBA Women Lawyers’ Committee. “ Our new toolkit provides all the guidance necessary to start a mentorship programme at an organisation’s own pace on its path to true equality, but diversity policies need to be taught and integrated throughout the organisation to be a success.”

The toolkit provides firms that may not have the resources to put together a mentoring programme to have a baseline. It is detailed enough for firms to use by themselves, without the need for further external consultation and general enough that it will work across continents despite cultural differences. IBA members, human resources professionals and diversity consultants around the world were consulted in the creation of the toolkit.

“Change starts from the top,” said Ursula Ben-Hammou, mentorship officer of the IBA Women Lawyer’s Committee, and toolkit lead. “We had been thinking hard about a way to collaborate on this titanic and crucial duty, and wanted to offer something tangible for our members, something they could implement at their firms. Something that can, and will, with true commitment make a difference.”

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