The Netherlands: IBA releases latest report on gender disparity in the legal profession

Wednesday 22 November 2023

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A new report from the International Bar Association (IBA), with a focus on the Netherlands, is the fifth in a series on gender disparity at senior levels across the global legal profession. According to IBA Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU) survey results, in Dutch law firms women make up 49 per cent of lawyers, but only hold 28 per cent of senior roles.

Carola van den Bruinhorst, Chair of the Legal Practice Division and Member of the IBA Management Board, commented: ‘As a partner at Loyens & Loeff, the promotion of gender equality has been nothing less than a personal mission. The findings in this report show that in the Netherlands, despite parity or even a female majority within the lower ranks, there are significant drops in gender parity levels in senior positions. To truly attract, retain and progress gender diversity, change is needed. This requires the support of those in the most senior positions in law firms, usually males, to take ownership of and responsibility for diversity initiatives. Let this report serve as a call to action for all stakeholders in the legal profession.’

Released in collaboration with the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation (LNROLF), the 50:50 by 2030: A longitudinal study into gender disparity in law – THE NETHERLANDS RESULTS REPORT follows publication of examinations into gender disparity in senior roles across the legal profession – private practice, in-house legal teams, public sector institutions and the judiciary – in England and Wales, Nigeria, Spain and Uganda.

Overall, women make up 57 per cent of all lawyers across the combined legal disciplines surveyed in the Netherlands, but only 46 per cent of senior positions. This figure – alongside that for Nigeria (43 per cent) – is the highest percentage of senior female lawyers seen across the study to date. In Uganda it is 40 per cent, in England and Wales 32 per cent, and in Spain 31 per cent.

Further survey results revealed that in the public sector, 63 per cent of lawyers in the Netherlands are women. However, that figure dropped to 45 per cent when senior roles were examined.

With regard to the Netherlands’ judiciary, survey results indicate the least percentage drop and relative parity between men and women, with women making up the majority of the judiciary (61 per cent) and occupying 54 per cent of senior roles.

Results for the corporate sector show the greatest disparity between women working in the legal profession (58 per cent) and women working at a senior level (29 per cent).

Marlies Vegter, Netherlands gender equality law representative at the European Network of Legal Experts in Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination and lawyer at Bureau Clara Wichmann, remarked: ‘The Dutch legal profession has made significant progress towards gender equality in recent years. Women now make up a growing proportion of legal professionals. However, as this report highlights, there is still much work to be done to ensure that women have equal opportunities for career advancement and leadership positions across the legal profession. Further measures are needed in the area of equal pay, fair remuneration of lawyers working in the social domain and increase of women in leadership positions. I hope this report will contribute towards improvements in this respect in the legal profession, both in the Netherlands and other countries around the world.’

Additional findings in the Netherlands report include:

  • All respondents from across the legal sectors reported the monitoring of gender balance, with 92 per cent monitoring it at senior levels;
  • Coaching, mentoring and leadership programmes were the joint most popular gender equality initiatives, with 77 per cent of respondents having them in place;
  • Flexible working was utilised by 69 per cent of respondents;
  • Of all lawyers surveyed 21 per cent worked part time, with the figure rising to 29 per cent for female lawyers; and
  • The least popular gender equality initiative was quota setting, with only 8 per cent of respondents having quotas in place.

The 50:50 by 2030: A longitudinal study into gender disparity in law project is a nine-year global project that aims to uncover the root causes of gender disparity at the top of the legal profession, examine the impact of equality initiatives and produce a blueprint for gender equality at all levels. Unique in scope and duration, the next reports to be published focus on the jurisdictions of Chile and South Korea.

The nine-year global project, launched in 2021, was conceived by Almudena Arpón de Mendívil Aldama, IBA President and a partner at law firm Gómez-Acebo & Pombo in Madrid, Spain. She stated at its inception: ‘Despite good intentions, despite the merits and talent of so many women, we still don’t reach the most senior positions across the legal sector, mainly due to discriminatory obstacles placed in our paths. This directly clashes with the principles defended by our profession. The legal sector cannot afford this contradiction and should lead by example. With the benefit of raised general awareness around discrimination, it is time for increased action. Through the “50:50 by 2030” global study the IBA aspires to build global empirical evidence on the barriers causing the disparity in figures between women and men in senior roles and to put forward remedies to rectify the situation in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality. We are committed to developing solutions that will bring about lasting change to reflect the broader profession and society as a whole.’


Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here to download a PDF of 50:50 by 2030: A longitudinal study into gender disparity in law – THE NETHERLANDS RESULTS REPORT.
  2. Click here for information on the IBA’s 50:50 by 2030 – A Longitudinal Study into Gender Disparity in Law project.
  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, with the aim of protecting and promoting the rule of law globally, the IBA was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice. The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.
  4. Find the IBA on social media here:

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