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31 July 2015, 06:13
Male solicitors are paid up to 42% more than their female counterparts, according to new research.
The Law Society of Scotland said the figure shows the gender pay gap at its widest point among its 11,000 members.
In the earlier stages of solicitors' careers there is little difference between male and female earnings, according to the body.
But from age 36 onwards women generally appear to be paid lower salaries than men of the same age, with women more prevalent in the salary bands up to £65,000 and men more prevalent in salary bands over #65,000.
The research found that women tend to remain associates or assistants rather than be promoted to partner level.
The Society compared average full-time and full-time equivalent salaries for women and men at all career stages.
Janet Hood, convener of the body's equality committee, said: "A 42% gender pay gap reflects very badly on what is otherwise a modern and forward-thinking profession - with some female solicitors effectively working for free for five months of the year.
"There are many and nuanced reasons why the gender pay gap exists and the legal profession is certainly not alone - figures from November 2014 show that the overall UK gap was 9.4%.
"However we have seen little change in the past decade compared to other professions such as accountancy or dentistry and it is a major concern that such a substantial gap persists 45 years after the UK Equal Pay Act.
"Quite simply it is not something we can afford to ignore, for either ethical or business reasons.
"Women now represent half the legal profession in Scotland and there should be no limit set on their talent and ambition.''
The research showed that the average gender pay gap within Scotland's legal profession at specific stages ranges from 2% to 38%.
There appears to be an issue around assumptions made about women, the Society said, with its report indicating that women earn less than their male counterparts whether or not they have children.
Many respondents considered that part-time working was detrimental to a solicitor's career, whether male or female, and even in firms that were supportive and accommodating of flexible working arrangements.
The Society said there did appear to have been a move towards childcare responsibilities being viewed as a joint responsibility rather than solely a mother's responsibility.
It plans to publish a series of guides later this year for solicitors returning to work following a period of maternity, paternity or adoption leave and is currently seeking views from solicitors on their return to work experiences.