Gender balance ‘unlikely’ if current trends persist


The percentage of women at the Bar has remained unchanged over the last five years, figures released by the Bar Standards Board revealed.

While almost half of those called to the Bar are women, they are leaving in disproportionate numbers compared to men and still make up only around 36% of the practising Bar (an increase of 0.9% since 2014) and a figure that has not changed significantly since 2010.

There remains a slow rate of progression and women account for only 13% of QCs.

Commenting on the Bar Council’s Momentum Measures report, the Bar Standards Board said that gender balance among practising barristers ‘is unlikely to be achieved if current trends persist’.

The figures for ethnic minority barristers have remained almost static, at 12%, up only 1% on the previous year. While only 1.5% class themselves as having a disability, up 0.5% from a year ago.

Barristers appeared reluctant to declare details of their sexual orientation, religion or socio-economic background. The BSB’s data showed that more that 70% of the Bar did not disclose any of these details. Fewer than 1% said they were male homosexuals and only 0.2% said they were lesbians.

The figures were published as the BSB launched a survey to gather information on women’s experiences of the equality rules of the BSB Handbook, which were introduced in 2012. The results will be used to review the rules to see whether further regulation is needed to improve the retention and progression of women.

BSB director-general, Dr Vanessa Davies, said: ‘I don’t think any of us should be prepared to tolerate a situation where half of those called to the Bar are female but women then leave the profession to an extent that they become outnumbered two to one later on.’

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