Urgent action to tackle high level of harassment and discrimination


Almost half of female barristers have suffered discrimination and over two-thirds have considered leaving the Bar, according to a survey from the regulator.

The Bar Standards Boards’ (BSB) Women at the Bar report revealed that 45% of respondents had experienced discrimination and 40% had suffered harassment, but only one in five had reported the problems due to concern about the impact on their career.

Where incidences were reported, half of those who complained of harassment and the majority of those who experienced discrimination were not satisfied with the response.

Responses suggested discrimination from clerks or in the allocation of work more generally are particularly prevalent.

The online survey was completed by 1,333 female barristers; of which more than two thirds (68%) said they had contemplated leaving the Bar. This was more likely for those who said that they had experienced discrimination or harassment, those from a black, Asian, and minority ethnic background, or those with primary caring responsibilities for children.

On a positive note, the survey found that recruitment is generally seen as fair, with a large majority of chambers having implemented fair recruitment training, and the majority of chambers have equality policies in place, that most members are aware of.

BSB director general, Vanessa Davies, said: ‘The equality rules were intended in part to improve the retention or women at the Bar but, as we know, men outnumber women by two to one and this has not changed significantly over the last six years.

‘There are some encouraging findings in this report but some are very disappointing, and we intend to address these issues as a matter of urgency.’

Davies will write to all sets to ensure equality policies are being properly implemented and that everyone is aware of them.

Bar Chairman, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, said: ‘Some of the experiences documented by the BSB are historic, but there is no room for complacency.

‘This profession, like others, continues to face challenges around harassment and discrimination,’ she said, adding that the Bar has implemented a number of initiatives to support women.

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