This sign for the toilets in the Royal Courts of Justice goes beyond everyday sexism

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Female advocates, male non-advocates and wheelchair users are all flummoxed by this sign for the toilets at the Royal Courts of Justice


The Royal Courts of Justice contains what may be the least politically correct sign that remains in modern Britain today.

The sign — which Legal Cheek was notified of yesterday — could almost be dismissed as quaint if it wasn’t for the legal profession’s terrible problems with gender diversity at its senior levels.

Just to recap:

Just one out of 12 judges in the UK Supreme Court is female.

Women make up just 11% of QCs.

Women make up just 23% of partners at the UK’s top law firms.

Happily, after Legal Cheek alerted HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to the sign this morning we can report that a temporary change has been made to replace the word ‘Advocates’ with ‘Gentlemen’s’. A spokesperson for HMCTS said:

“We apologise for any offence that the sign has caused and it has been changed.”



Shows that you don’t have a sense of humour!



Ha! That definitely needed to change.

However I don’t think that this sign caused the composition of the Bar/judiciary at senior levels. It’s just unthinking sexism from those of the old school.

I believe equality has been achieved at junior levels of the bar. There is a drop of as people get older when women start having babies, which self employment doesn’t necessarily lend itself to.



Well if YOU Dave think that there’s equality between the sexes at the Bar then it MUST be correct.



Dave didn’t say equality between the sexes as a whole, just at the junior end of the bar. He’s also better informed than you and right. I’m a female law graduate who’s just finished the BPTC, and the male:female ratio is now approx 50:50 for us. If anything there’s now positive discrimination to ensure women receive pupillages. Now that a woman’s said it will you accept it’s true?

Not sure if he’s right about why there’s a drop off. Hopefully now that more women are coming through the profession and men are taking a more active role in raising children, we will see more women in senior legal positions.



Sadly the toilets are also very old school.


Not Amused

I wonder just how old this sign was. Surely in ye-sexist olden times, it would have said ‘Barrister’ or ‘Counsel’? Isn’t ‘Advocates’ indicative of it being at least post-higher rights of audience being granted?

Or am I just being very suspicious?

Oh and yes, we as a nation need to have a proper talk about child raising because at the moment it is seriously impacting on the success of our women and that can only be a bad thing. It’ll almost certainly involve some sort of schooling from age 2 and some sort of 8 to 7 opening hours. My understanding is that most private schools now open at least 8 to 6; most state are still 9 to 3:30. A big stumbling block is going to be the teaching unions. But we as a nation really really need to discuss this!



It’s true that there needs to be a conversation about child rearing as this is the major issue in equality of pay and opportunities for women. But you can’t really make many inroads while so many women actively want to stay at home with children.

Call it maternal instincts, but the number of women who want to take time off after having a child vastly outnumber those who want to go straight back in.

Of course many men also want to stay at home with the baby. Currently there is the ability to ‘steal’ some of your wife’s maternity leave and take some of the time off yourself. But good luck to the majority of fathers trying to convince their wife to give up their maternity leave and give it to them…

We as lawyers assume that everyone is as career focused as us, and wants to leave their kids with a nanny or some other form of childcare while we work. But most people disagree with this.


Not Amused

I think while that *may* be a point. The best thing to do is not to assume that women want to stay at home. Devise and implement systems on a national level which allow women to go back to work. Focus on making that the *norm* not the *exception*. After that quietly record whether women do or don’t use the services. If they don’t use them then you can stop providing them.

I think the problem is that at the moment there is no way of telling whether the lack of support structures or women’s own choice is having the negative impact. As a state all we can do is target the lack of support structures and not really worry about the whole choice question until later.



I think that’s fair.


Max Hardy

I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago about the lamentably slow progress England & Wales is making towards gender equality in the higher ranks of the judiciary:


Mr Dyson

I invented a new type of hoover a few years ago. Please feel free to have a look at my website.



I think it is very true that self employment and wanting to spend time with your family are hard to combine – as one of the women not quite leaving but taking an extended sabbatical from the bar because I just can’t make it work with single parenthood any more, I think having babies is probably not the only reason why more women leave the (self-employed) bar, but is a very big one. Especially in crime, it’s very hard to work part time and many of my women colleagues practising in crime before babies switch to civil work after, if not leaving the bar completely. I do know some male colleagues find it hard to combine the two as well, even with understanding clerks and colleagues, but I think Dave is right that that’s the reason why, despite equal numbers coming in at the junior end, more women leave and less of us make it to the senior end. Also I think it takes a huge amount of extra hassle to get together the evidence to be made a QC which is why a lot of women don’t apply.


Juan Pertayta

The discriminatory language on the sign is bad. But the non-U reference to ‘toilets’ is worse.


Richard Reynolds

In danger of getting shouted at for not being on message by asking a genuine question, are we sure that sign did not point to the male advocates room and the public female toilets? That was my reading of it.


Miguel Sanchez

If I remember correctly Bromley County Court has both advocate and public loos, although there is at least an advertised difference between the male and female advocates’ loos thereby avoiding both charges of sexism and awkward encounters (either with the other sex or members of the public…).

Perhaps the RCJ is unable to distinguish between female and male advocates as they all wear wigs and dresses?



I do hope they got their apostrophe in the right place.



am I the only one who is more bemused by the location of the ‘accessible’ toilet…



Lady Hale will be pleased.



Well done for getting that offensive sign adjusted. Now, what are we going to do about adjusting the offensive statistics? Surely equal opportunities for women lawyers should be addressed with greater fervour than an archaic lavatory sign.


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