Q&A with Dr Alix Frank-Thomasser Women in Law Dr Alix Frank-Thomasser from MSI member firm Alix Frank Rechtsanwälte GmbH (Vienna, Austria) discusses the challenges and obstacles faced by women in the legal and accounting professions and her reasons for establishing the organisation Women in Law.
Q: When and why did you set
women and male allies across
up ‘Women in Law’?
all legal professions to support
A: As chairperson of the CCBE Committee on Corporate Social
Q: What challenges do women
Responsibility, I collaborated
in the professions face today?
in a study conducted by the European Parliament, which mapped the representation of women and men in the legal profession. The remarkably low number of women in leadership positions across the professions in many countries was eye-opening for me. I had always pursued my career without thinking about my gender, but the realisation that there is still this tremendous gap between men and women in positions of power, in my own and other professions, was a call to action for me. Together with my law firm partner Franz J. Heidinger, I decided to play my part in tackling this problem by initiating Women in Law in 2018. Women in Law is an NPO which strives to connect
women on their way to the top.
A: The challenges are manifold, but we see several main stumbling blocks for women on the path to success in the professions. One very important factor is that traditional gender roles are pervasive even today and do not stop short of our professions. Women are still expected to be the primary caregivers for children and family members who are in need of care. This double burden of having a career plus domestic work/ care is particularly difficult to manage in demanding work environments with low flexibility. This often leads to women leaving these professions in their mid to late twenties for careers that offer a better work-life balance.
Let me give you two examples: • In Austria, 50% of first-year law firm associates are female but after four to five years in the profession, this number drops to 21%. • In the US, 51% of all full-time staff at CPA firms are women, but only 24% of partners and principals are female. Already, at the beginning of their careers, or when changing jobs, women often face bias whether intentional or unconscious. It is a well-researched fact that bias in many forms, such as mirror effects, i.e. preferring candidates of your own image because you subconsciously expect them to be a better fit for the team, or even conscious discrimination are prevalent in all professions. Additionally, our professions are not immune to the issue of unequal pay. A wide gender pay gap will often demotivate female employees and deter female candidates from even considering these careers.