Australian Women Lawyers president Leah Marrone said it was a “punch in the guts’’ for female graduates to learn they were being paid less.
“We constantly see examples of people in exactly the same firm being paid differently, even at graduate level,’’ she said.
“It’s pretty ruthless out there and there’s an unconscious bias of assuming women will have babies and leave.’’
Ms Marrone said most law firms forced workers to sign confidentiality contracts to keep salaries secret, making it “very hard to negotiate a wage’’.
She said she was asked about her “family plans’’ during her first job interview for a government agency when she graduated 13 years ago.
“I replied that I was only 23,’’ she said. “I definitely didn’t say, ‘That question’s unlawful’ because I probably wouldn’t have gotten the job if I did.
“(Employers) still do it – they might find different ways of asking, like, “Are you planning on taking an extended period of leave?
“Graduates don’t have a lot of negotiating power.’’
Ms Marrone said the pay gap could also reflect more women working in lower-paid areas of law, such as Legal Aid and family law.
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