In South Africa, there are currently more female law graduates than male law graduates.
However, it was generally reported that women continue to be under represented
at senior levels within the legal industry. This reality is also reflected in elite
law firms - a niche segment of the legal industry, with women remaining under represented
at equity and partnership level despite their increased numbers.
The objective of this research was to ascertain the career progression of female executives
within the elite law firm industry; understand the factors which have enabled
the small number of female executives to succeed; and identify any barriers which
may be preventing other female attorneys from advancing to partnership and equity
The study itself was qualitative in nature and utilised purposive sampling. 15 female
executives/partners/directors participated in the study. The results were reported using
direct content analysis.
The main themes which emerged from the study was that there is in fact increased
representation of women within elite law firms in South Africa. However, promotion
criteria to reach director/partnership/executive levels remains highly gendered to the
advantage of male attorneys. It was reported by the Participants that even though
elite law firms in South Africa had made a concerted effort to increase the number of
women within their structures, women remain under represented at partnership and
equity levels. Should these promotion criteria remain in place – and structural
changes are not made to change unequal practices, the sustained success of female
executives within elite law firms in South Africa will be hampered over time
Mini Dissertation (MBA)--University of Pretoria, 2020.