New silks: Women and ethnic minorities have best strike rate, but men dominate

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By Judge John Hack on

Today’s silk round shows women and ethnic minorities have a much better success rate than their male counterparts — but they still lag way behind in applications


Women barristers have a far better strike rate when applying for silk than their male counterparts, but they are still woefully underrepresented at the top ranks of the bar.

Figures released earlier today show 58% of women applicants for Queen’s Counsel hit the jackpot and can trundle out shopping for an enhanced wig and gown. While slightly fewer than 38% of the chaps applying for silk will be able to join them at Ede & Ravenscroft (of course, other suppliers are available).

Even so, the number of women applicants was around a quarter of those from men — 43 compared with 180.

Ethnic minority barristers also produced an impressive 42% success rate, a massive improvement over recent years. In 2012-13, the success rate for silk applications from ethnic minority barristers was 14%.

Nonetheless, the figures — from Queen’s Counsel Appointments body — show the number of awards to ethnic minority barristers slipped. This year there were 10 made up to silk while last year there were 13.

Indeed, the overall number of silk booze-ups this year will be down on 12 months ago. In total, 93 barristers have been made up this year, compared with an even ton last year. This year’s overall success rate was slightly shy of 42%, down on nearly 44.5% last year.

This year, there are 25 women silks — up from 18 last year. And there are 68 men QCs, down from 82 a year ago.

Since the silk award process was temporarily suspended in 2004 — amid concerns that it had become little more than an old school tie-style exercise completely lacking in transparency — applications have steadily declined. In 2006, 443 barristers applied for the award — 50% more than this year.

However, the number of applicants seems to have steadied; there were only two fewer this year compared with the 2013-14 appointments round.

While the number of applicants has tumbled, the overall success rate has remained relatively static — in 2006 it stood at 39.5%. During that time, the success rate for men and ethnic minority lawyers has also remained the same; but women barristers have improved their strike rate by about 10%.


List of Appointments in Alphabetical Order