How women at the bar can rise to high court positions

How women at the bar can rise to high court positions


The centennial anniversary of women’s entry into the legal profession—through the introduction of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919—was marked by the Bar Council and Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) ‘100 Years of Women in Law’ event on 24 September 2019.

A panel of speakers from across the legal sector, including Lady Justice Nicola Davies DBE, judge of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, and Amanda Pinto QC, chair-elect of the Bar Council and barrister at 33 Chancery Lane, praised female lawyers, judges and other professionals in what they have achieved over the last 100 years, yet said ‘progress has been made, but nowhere near as swiftly as we would hope for’ and more needs to be done to help women rise to positions in the higher courts. 

The panel highlighted the continued ‘pigeon-holing’ of women into certain specialisms and inconsistent application of parental leave policies as key challenges faced by women in the legal profession today. Close, honest relationships with clerks and a ‘can do’ attitude are mentioned as key methods for overcoming these boundaries.


Why progress is so slow


Pinto opened the event by acknowledging how far women at the bar have come in the legal profession, but calling it a ‘slow progress’, citing that in 1970, there were still only 147 female members at the Bar and that she is only the fourth woman to take her position as chair of the bar in 125 years.

The main reasons she gave for this were:

• ‘[c]hange is often difficult to effect and people are reluctant to help move the needle of what ordinary looks like’

• ‘[s]omeone has to do it! Individuals are crucial to change &ndash

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About the author:

Samantha is a journalist at LexisNexis with over four year's experience in legal publishing. She has a blog, ‘Green Heart’, on which she promotes a plastic-free lifestyle and writes fiction in her spare time, which has been published. She specialises in feature-style and analytical news articles, with a particular interest in environmental law, arts and heritage, and women’s rights.