Portugal continues to win in gender equality

Portugal exceeds equality in total numbers and lawyers and doubles Spain in the percentage of female partners. This is one of the conclusions of the study carried out on the presence of women in the private legal sector in Iberia, which gathered data from 40 of the law firms with the highest turnover in Spain and Portugal. The general data reveal the constant growth in the presence of women in management positions, which is where the greatest disparity still lies. In our country, only two firms have in total more women than men (Baker McKenzie and Barrilero), although 75% of them have a total percentage of women over 40%


A comparison between Spain and Portugal shows that the neighbouring country is ahead of us in the race for gender equality in decision-making positions. Portugal exceeds parity both in total and in lawyers and is twice as big as Spain in the percentage of female partners. But far from being a novelty, this was already the case five years ago, as can be seen in the study carried out in 2015 by Iberian Lawyer. Currently, only two of the surveyed firms have female managing partners in Portugal (curiously, two Spanish firms): Cuatrecasas (Maria João Ricou) and GA_P (Mafalda Barreto), and two of the firms studied in Spain: EJASO ETL Global (Isabel Sobrepera is managing partner of its Barcelona office) and Garrigues (Miriam Barrera is co-director of its Barcelona office).

In Spain, despite the fact that, as we shall see, the gender gap is becoming narrower thanks to equality and work-family balance policies, among others, implemented by the firms, we observe that there are some cases where the absence of women is still striking as we move upwards to the partnership. The study confirms what we already knew from other studies in the sector: that the lack of equality occurs, above all, in decision-making positions. In this sense, approximately half of the firms in the study maintain parity between men and women in the number of lawyers (between 47% and 53%). In all of them, more than a third of the lawyers are women, but never more than three quarters. In this category (lawyers), more than half of the firms (12 out of 20) have more female than male lawyers.

In all categories, Baker McKenzie is the winner in parity in the three tables in this ranking; number of lawyers, number of partners, and total percentage. Ninety-seven of its 159 lawyers are women (61%) and, 14 out of its 39 partners are women (36%). These numbers consolidate the firm as a total leader, with 56% of women including lawyers and partners. The figures are in line with the announcement made in 2019 by Baker McKenzie, who that year set its overall aspirational target at 40:40:20 per cent gender diversity, to represent 40% women, 40% men and 20% flexible (women, men or non-binary persons). This target was to be applied to partners, senior business professionals, firm committee leadership and candidate pools for recruitment. Baker McKenzie set a target date of July 1, 2025. Starting from that date, all candidate pools for external recruitment for partners or senior business professionals should meet the new targets. Constanze Ulmer-Eilfort, Global Diversity & Inclusion Committee chair and member of Baker McKenzie’s Global Executive Committee said: “We have made a big step towards providing equal opportunities for women with the overwhelming support of our senior leadership. Twenty years after electing the first female chair of any global law firm, I am proud to say that once again, Baker McKenzie is leading the way in the legal sector.”

To read the interview in full please download issue N.97 here

Desire Vidal