Just 23% of new QCs are women — but Boris’ wife is one of them

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By Katie King on

Ethnic minorities also under-represented as — surprise, surprise — white men dominate new year silk appointments


As the quest for a representative legal profession rumbles on, pro-diversity campaigners may be disheartened to learn that only a quarter of new QC posts have been filled today by women.

At first glance, news of the latest QC appointments — announced at midday — is yet another familiar example of the profession barring women from its top ranks. Of the 107 barristers and solicitor-advocates awarded QC status, 25 (23%) are female, leaving males to snatch up the remaining 82 awards (77%).

But despite these woeful figures, female applicants actually stand a much better chance than men of bagging the prestigious title. Of the 189 male applicants, 43% were triumphant — considerably lower than the 52% success rate of female applicants.

New silks include One Crown Office Row human rights barrister Marina Wheeler (aka Boris Johnson’s wife) and Blackstone public law high flyer Shaheed Fatima.

An increased success rate despite a lack of female applicants is part of an ongoing trend in QC appointment stats. As early as 1995, though men made up 91% of the applicants and took 89% of the awards, female applicants were 5% more likely than male applicants to be awarded the status, with success rates of 19% and 14% respectively.

This 10 year trend prompts debate about whether there is an underlying reason why women are not applying for the prestigious status.

Meanwhile, nine of the new QCs are from ethnic minorities — equating to 8%. Notably, the figures show ethnic minority applicants’ success rate to be a disappointing 28%, 17% less than the overall figure of 45%. This is down 15% from last year’s stat.

That other minority in the world of QCs, solicitors, did even worse, with just three made silk today. A total of nine applied. The successful trio are all arbitration specialists at corporate law firms firms — namely Penelope Madden of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Nigel Rawding of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Quinn Emanuel’s Stephen Jagusch.

In addition to the main list, a handful of honorary QCs have also been appointed. They include well-known legal affairs journalist Joshua Rozenberg.