b'PEOPLE| LEGAL SECTOR| 2020SUSTAINABILITY INSIGHTGENDER EQUALITYChallenges and Opportunities WGEA has been monitoring the Gendered impacts of COVID-19 and while it will take some time for this to be fully realised and reflected in the data, a number of hypothesis may be made on the likely impacts on gender equality outcomes. Firstly, during times of business stress the supporting or operational roles are commonly the first to be affected by redundancies, restructures, retrenchments and reductions in hours. In AusLSA law firms operational and non-professional staff are seventy-nine percent female. These are often roles occupied by women.Secondly, the rates of promotions are likely to be impacted by commercial uncertainty and a potential slowing of business. It follows that if promotions decrease then the opportunity to improve the gender balance in senior positions will also be slowed.Thirdly, COVID has created an increased reliance on unpaid family and community caring roles following the closure of childcare, schools and personal care services. The WGEA found that on average women spend sixty-four percent of their working hours with no remuneration in comparison to men (thirty-six percent). The additional demands of professional and home duties created by COVID may impact disproportionately on womens wellbeing as well as longer term impacts on their career.Law firms could address the COVID pressures and impacts on women in a number of ways. By working to better understand the competing needs of women in the workplace, firms can respond by providing the required flexibility to manage these demands, including flexible working hours, additional leave or concessions on performance assessments that consider extenuating circumstances. Actively encouraging and supporting men in the utilisation of parental leave and carers leave.Considering how they can more directly support employees with the practical provision of these carer roles including coaching, childcare referral programs and targeted wellbeing support.And finally, while it is uncomfortable to discuss and accept, domestic violence is a real part of our community and the stresses and compressed living caused by COVID is a catalyst for increased rates of violence. Unfortunately, ethnicity, religion, social class, educational or professional background do not provide immunity from this problem. Employers have both a legal and moral responsibility to support victims of domestic and family violence. There are fundamental issues that transcend these immediate COVID pressures and need ongoing attention. Female representation has now grown to 58%of the legal staff, yet they still only occupy 30% of partner positions. Apart from responding to COVID, firms also need to continue with the fundamental changes required. Law Council of Australia survey National Attrition and Reengagement Survey highlighted the need to focus on a range of priority changes to address the causes including Career path transformationLeadership and role modellingRelationships and supportThe Women in Leadership: Lessons from Australian companies leading the way report identifies the ten common features of leading organisations who are dismantling barriers to womens participation at senior levels.The process recommended by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and detailed in their Gender Strategy Toolkit identifies the following key actions:AnalyseUnderstand the firms gender equality status - Conduct a gender pay gap analysis and understand gender pay gapsAssess barriers to women progressing to leadership rolesDesignIdentify the best interventions and set targets to address the identified inequalitiesImplementDevelop and deliver action plans - Measurable effectiveness against. ReviewRegularly assess the effectiveness of actions against targets and review the impacts ion the identified barriers Modify and update the design and implementation of the strategy to respond and consider new opportunities 22'