Women in the law

The report

The report of the research, Changing the rules : The experiences of female lawyers in Victoria, was launched by Michael Holcroft, President of the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) Acting Commissioner Karen Toohey and Mary-Jane Ierodiaconou – Managing Partner, Justitia on 3 December 2012 at the LIV.

Background to the project

Women are an intrinsic part of the legal profession in Australia. Women are graduating and participating in the legal profession at a high rate, however their career trajectories remain quite different to that of men. The gender pay gap also remains a stubbornly difficult problem across the economy. Previous studies in Victoria have also found that attrition rates from the legal profession are higher for women then for men.

For these reasons, the Commission undertook research examining the experiences of women in the legal profession – focusing on discrimination, sexual harassment and the accommodation of parental and carer responsibilities. The Commission sought to understand how prevalent these problems were, why they were occurring, and how they impacted on the lives of women who had experienced them.

The project was developed in cooperation with the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) and the Victorian Women Lawyers and was conducted with the support of leaders in the profession.

The Commission would like to thank the Critical Friends Group for their guidance on this project. Members of the Critical Friends group included: Law Institute of Victoria President Michael Holcroft, immediate past president of the Law Institute of Victoria Caroline Counsel, Michael Gorton AM, Debbie Mortimer SC, Associate Professor Beth Gaze and Convenor of Victorian Women Lawyers Patricia Athanasiadis. We would also like to thank the more than 400 women lawyers who participated in our online survey and those who participated in the focus group on women who had left the profession. This information has provided the Commission with valuable qualitative and quantitative data that has informed the final report.

Thank you also to our key informants who were integral in identifying leading practice and informing the recommendations for future change.
If you would like any further information about the report please call 9032 3405 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Privacy statement

No individual, firm or employer was identified in the report, except where expressly agreed by those firms and individuals as examples of good practice.The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission complies with Victorian privacy laws and the confidentiality provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. See our privacy policy for more details

Know your rights

Women in the Law - Know your rights is a fact sheet explaining different types of discrimination, harassment and victimisation. It has various examples relevant to women working in the legal profession.

Related resources

Read more about your rights at work under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, sex discrimination and discrimination in employment or browse the Commission’s online publications and resources.

Research updates

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