International Women’s Day: Lack of confidence deterring women from applying for silk

Barristers urge female seniors to be an inspiration to their juniors

Hardwicke’s Brie Stevens-Hoare QC

The Bar Council has released a heart-warming video to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Featuring some of the country’s most notable female QCs, the video (embedded below) encourages people, particularly senior women, to #payitforward and inspire junior barristers to take the next step in their careers.

The short clip features testimonies from QCs Brie Stevens-Hoare, from Hardwicke and Zoe O’Sullivan, from One Essex Court. Criminal law silks Tana Adkin and Angela Rafferty from Charter Chambers and Red Lion Chambers respectively also appear. Their cameos show that a lack of confidence can hold women back in their professional development. O’Sullivan, for example, admits:

The bar can be a very lonely place, and for years I lacked the confidence to even visualise myself as a potential QC.

However, a turning point for O’Sullivan, and others, came when a colleague encouraged her to take the plunge and apply for silk. Now, the Bar Council is hoping its video will give barristers a nudge to inspire their colleagues to step onto the next rung of their career ladder. This is important because, in Rafferty’s words:

We need more women QCs and we need more women in the judiciary.

The most recent statistics from the Bar Standards Board (BSB) show that just 14% of QCs are women. The regulator reckons it’ll be 2067 before there is gender parity at silk level.

Law firm senior ranks appear to be more representative of the population. Releasing previously unseen data yesterday, the Law Society claimed 34% of law firms across England and Wales in 2015 were “majority-owned” by women.

Comparing this to the national average across small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of 21%, Law Society president Robert Bourns has suggested that the stat reflects “the changing culture in the legal sector”.

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Men are far more disadvantaged than women in society today. Life expectancy, education and family courts to give a few examples. The ‘sexist pay gap’ is a myth.

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Dorris the Femenazi

What would you know you mysogistic facist? Women are expected to lead lucrative careers while babies suck on our teets. This Patriachal system is broken. The girls run the world

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Looks like bantah is dead on this site when non offensive but ultimately satirical comments are removed.

See LC revenue fall off a cliff when people stop visiting for the bantz

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Freshfields Partner

Family courts all rule in favour of women. Completely unjustified to award an ex wife half of your estate in a divorce when she did nothing to build those assets. #golddiggingb***

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“Law firm senior ranks appear to be more representative of the population. Releasing previously unseen data yesterday, the Law Society claimed 34% of law firms across England and Wales in 2015 were “majority-owned” by women”

Um, no Katie. “Majority-owned” is not “representative of the population” given that only 50% of the population are women.

What you should be saying is that men are under-represented in 34% of law firms. I look forward to seeing your analysis on how to correct this.

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Uhhh presumably 66% of law firms are majority owned by men (or have equal number of male and female partners). Given that most law firms are small I don’t think anyone would say that there’s anything wrong with there being individual firms whose partners are mostly men or mostly women. It’s where overall there seem to be more male (or female) partners that it’s a problem.

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Not Amused

I sincerely doubt that ‘lack of confidence’ is the overall problem. That is far too simplistic. Where it is a problem then smug and self satisfied campaigns like this are the equivalent of screaming “get confident you stupid waste of space” in someone’s face..

Nor would we simply push for 50:50 women and men and wash our hands of the matter. Other metrics are equally disturbing. There is no point increasing the number of women if we do not also increase the number of human being QCs from POOR backgrounds. That is far more important than elevating St Paul’s for Girls alumni into some superior race.

And then we would need to address childcare. Which no one is doing. Which no one is even mentioning. We need more men looking after more children. The number of men (teacher, primary parental carer, social worker, guardian, nursery worker, nanny, or joint shared carer) caring for children of all ages is risible. The number caring for under 5s is a national disgrace.

We had more men looking after children in the 90s. This issue must be addressed. Google has a charming doodle for International Women’s Day – do you know how many picture a woman with a child? We need a national campaign to promote male child care.

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100% agree that expectations about childcare (ie male silks all have stay at home wives looking after their kids so think that anyone, male or female, who normally spends evenings with their kids, takes half term off etc, is not committed to their careers).

However, as a female junior barrister in a very male dominated area of law and chambers, I find campaigns like this empowering rather than patronizing.
And I have to say, this criticism makes me reckon you’re a bloke. Having a female mentor has been so valuable to me. Under-confidence is not the only problem, (and insofar as it is one, it’s created by wider inequalities which ought to be tackled separately), but it is a real phenomenon that female professionals owe it to ourselves and those junior to us to tackle.

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Not Amused

“as a”. I really wish LC could code something to automatically delete replies to my comments which rely on identity politics. Identity is not an argument – it’s not even an achievement.

Thank you for anecdotally telling me that some barristers some times lack confidence. Whatever next? Priests questioning whether God is real? Bomb disposal experts who have trouble committing to long term life planning?

Mentoring helps and can help under-confidence in both genders. I’m am mildly fed up with the whole bloody lot of you. On one side I have people obsessed with other people’s identity (the racists, misogynists, the modern left). On the other I have people obsessed with their own identities (the virtue signallers, the advocates for special treatment, the bullies).

It’s like fascism and communism. I don’t, to be honest, find either of you to be terribly distinguishable from the other. There are only people. Not labels. People should be treated equally.

But then I “must” be a “bloke” (ghastly word out of anyone’s lips) because I don’t agree with you. If I don’t join your team and think *exactly* as you tell me then you’ll even threaten to take my identity away!

What I *feel like* is a very bored parent who wants to tell both groups to grow up. To accept that simple arguments are always wrong. That the truth is – everything depends and above all to stop obsessing about identity – yours or anyone else’s.

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No I don’t think you’re a bloke because you disagree with me (I’m a cantankerous sort, so disagree with plenty of women on plenty of things too), I think you’re a bloke because in my experience women tend to appreciate mentorship programmes and don’t equate under-confidence with being a waste of space. As for identity politics, you don’t have to be a political theorist to reckon that the people best placed to assess the success or otherwise of an outreach programme might be er the people who are being reached out to. But as I am a(n armchair) political theorist I’ll just point out that only someone whose identity is perfectly aligned with the status quo can think that their identity doesn’t colour their views and experiences. And only someone with a vestigial understanding that they have something to lose by acknowledging this thinks that arguments in favour of “identity politics” should be censored rather than engaged with…

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