23 September 2019

Bar regulator seeks women’s experiences at the Bar, launches survey

12 January 2016

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has launched a survey today to better understand women's experiences of the equality rules of the BSB Handbook.

The regulator seeks responses from all women at the practising Bar because the equality rules were introduced and made mandatory in 2012, in part, to support women's retention and progression at the Bar.

The BSB monitors compliance with the equality rules, but more information is needed on whether the equality rules actually work in supporting women from all backgrounds to progress with their careers as practising barristers.

The BSB will use the data from this survey to review the current equality rules and to determine whether or not further regulation is needed to improve the retention and progression of women.

Currently, almost half of those Called to the Bar are women, but women are leaving the profession in disproportionate numbers compared to men. There is still a slow rate of progression as women make up just over a third of the practising Bar, which has not changed since 2010.

These issues were highlighted recently by the Bar Council's Momentum Measures Report, which suggested that although there is broadly parity between men and women Called to the Bar, gender balance among all practising barristers is unlikely to be achieved if current trends persist.

This affects the rate at which women become QCs and members of the judiciary as length of tenure at the Bar is a predictive factor in promotion.

Director-General of the Bar Standards Board 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.  

"It's in the public interest that regulation encourages a diverse profession and contributes to the ongoing efforts to address gender inequality at the Bar. This matters, not least because our judges are recruited largely from the ranks of experienced barristers and we will not achieve the diversity in the judiciary that a fair society demands if we don't deal with gender inequality at the Bar.

"We took important steps when we introduced our equality rules, but we now need to understand more about how those rules and the associated polices are working.

"So if you are a woman practising as a barrister, please respond to the survey. We want to find out what more could be done by the regulator to support and encourage you to stay at the Bar."

The survey has been developed in conjunction with women practising at the Bar, women who have left the Bar and non-barristers. The survey explores women's perceptions and expectations in the following areas:

  • flexible working;
  • parental leave policies;
  • harassment policies;
  • chambers structures and governance;
  • recruitment practices;
  • work allocation monitoring;
  • organisational culture; and
  • external practices.

The data collected from the survey will be used to identify areas for improvement as well as good practice.

Women of all backgrounds who are currently practising at the Bar are asked to complete the survey and to help the regulator better understand women's experiences and how policy is put into practice. The survey is completely anonymous to enable women to share full and candid perceptions and experiences which will be used to inform future regulation to further support women's career at the Bar.

The survey has been sent directly to all women practising at the Bar to complete. If any female practising barristers have not received it, they should email equality@barstandardsboard.org.uk  

Please use this email address if you require the survey in an alternative format.

The survey closes on Monday 8 February at 9am.


Notes to editors

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