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A&O looks at 20% female partner goal as part of wider strategy to improve ratio

Allen & Overy’s (A&O’s) senior partner David Morley and global HR director Genevieve Tennant are meeting on Monday (19 May) to consider introducing a 20% female partnership target by 2020 as part of the firm’s long term approach to bolstering its female partner numbers.

The meeting follows an internal email sent by Tennant to partners stating that the Magic Circle firm, where 15% of partners are currently women, is looking to improve its gender balance by crystalising its ambitions in the ‘20% or higher’ 2020 target.

The new target, if approved, will form part of the 2,700-lawyer firm’s wider diversity strategy, put in place in 2010, which has seen it introduce more part-time partners, a measure that has so far failed to result in any significant improvement in its male-female ratio.

The 20% target discussions follows similar measures by Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), Hogan Lovells, Eversheds, Pinsent Masons and Baker & McKenzie but is low by comparison, after HSF in March announced that by 2019 women will make up 30% of its partnership.

The top 10 UK firm, which currently has a female partnership ratio of around 20%, has said it will bring in the changes in two stages: by May 2017 at least 25% of the partnership will be women, followed by 30% in May 2019.

Pinsent Masons aims to hit a 25% female partnership by 2018, with an aim to reach 30% after that. Baker & McKenzie last year announced its plan to double its female partnership to 30%, while Hogan Lovells and Eversheds are also targeting a 30% figure.

These figures are much in line with the 2011 Davies Report, which called for strong action from UK companies to redress gender imbalance on UK boards, suggesting that they should aim for a target of 25% female representation by 2015.

However, current female partner levels at A&O’s Magic Circle rivals are much on a par with its own. At the end of the 2012/13 financial year, 15% of Linklaters partnership were women, slightly lower than at Clifford Chance where 16% are female, but higher than at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer where only 11% are female partners.