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Bar Council report highlights situation for female barristers

By Victoria Basham

27 July 2015 at 07:26 BST

A Bar Council report on the experience of female barristers has found that many feel the bar has changed for the better, but also feel pushed toward traditional 'women's practice areas' such as family and sex crime.

The report questioned 85 women through focus groups and questionnaires and found that most felt the bar had improved. In particular, female barristers had generally positive experiences of the bar course and pupillage. Tales of outright sexism were typically historical examples from the 1980s and 90s. However, a ‘significant number’ felt they were manoeuvred into certain areas. One respondent said: ‘It was my choice to specialise in crime… it was not my choice to specialise in sex cases and my gender is a significant factor in this type of work being sent to me early in my career. Thereafter the perception develops it is your area of expertise and that attracts more work and greater specialisation.’ Women complained that their earnings halved when they had children.

The judiciary

The report also found that there was sexism at the highest levels of the judiciary. One respondent said that when she was appointed as a judge, comments were made such as:  'Well you were appointed to make up the numbers… There are still many very able men who cannot get appointed because they are not lesbians.'  The report  'The Snapshot: the Experience of Self-Employed Women at the Bar' researched 73 female barristers through focus group meeting and made seven recommendations including more senior women mentoring junior female barristers. Sources: The Independent; Legal Futures


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