Tag Archives: Gender Roles

Female Barristers Still Face Sexism

workplace sexism

A new report has highlighted high levels of sexism that women continue to face at the bar. Problems female barristers have to contend with, according to the report from the Bar Council, include inappropriate behaviour from their male colleagues and feeling pressured into pursuing “traditional” areas of practice for their gender.

The report, titled Snapshot: the experience of self-employed women at the bar, also highlighted the difficulty female barristers have in successfully balancing their career and their childcare requirements.

Some of the most prevalent problems they face, however, stem from the attitudes and behaviour of their male peers. While many respondents agreed that things were worse in this regard in the past, the attitudes of older generations of male barristers continue to influence their younger counterparts and sexism remains a serious problem. One respondent described how this kind of attitude “carries through the generations, junior silk to judge,” while another said that many male barristers seem to believe they are “existing in a children’s playground.” The latter went on to describe a habit among these barristers of saying “grossly disrespectful things because nobody is going to stop them.”

Partly as a result of these kinds of sexist attitudes, many women describe being pressured into pursuing areas of practice seen as traditionally more appropriate for women, mainly family law or sexual crime. One respondent described being openly told, upon mentioning her intention to pursue a career in criminal law to a male sponsor, “you’ve got no hope, all women have to do family law.”

Another described her experiences of being pressured into pursuing a career in sexual crime as a result of being “pigeon-holed” on account of her gender. She described how the combination of the stress that goes with a career in the law and the need to deal with women who had been through the traumatic experience of rape proved detrimental to her wellbeing.

Regarding issues of childcare, the report described how some chambers are supportive of women taking maternity leave but others try to discourage them from part time work. Issues like this, the report concluded, are forcing some women to leave their careers at the bar after becoming mothers.

Bar Council chair Alistair MacDonald QC said in response to the report “While there is clearly no problem in attracting women to the bar, with women and men joining the bar in equal numbers, the report identifies a number of new and significant challenges experienced by women working within the profession.” He also noted that “while most of the examples of sexism, harassment and discrimination quoted in the report are historical,” such behaviour is still a challenge that women at the bar must face.

For further information on sexual discrimination in the workplace, visit http://www.employmentsolicitors.co/discrimination-claims/sexual-discrimination/.