‘Highest ever’ proportion of female QC appointments, yet research commissioned into why so few women apply

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By Katie King on

73% of new silks are men


One hundred and thirteen barristers have been named as new QCs today, and the hot topic on everyone’s lips is ‘how diverse are the appointments?’

The answer: a bit more than they usually are. This year’s round of appointments shows diversity in the upper echelons of the bar is improving, with the percentage of candidates from non-traditional backgrounds succeeding in their applications very much on the up.

Take applicants from black minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. Of the 37 BME applicants who applied for silk status, 16 (43%) were successful. This is a big improvement on last year’s percentage (28%).

A similar trend can be traced when it comes to LGBT applicants. Eight of the nine (89%) applicants who declared they were a gay man, a gay woman or bisexual made silk, another big leap from last year’s 58%.

And then there’s gender diversity. According to Helen Pitcher — who chairs the panel responsible for selecting new silks — the proportion of female QCs is “at its highest level ever”. Thirty-one women applicants of the 56 (55%) who applied made silk, again an improvement on 2015-16’s 52% stat.

On the appointments, Lord Chancellor Elizabeth Truss had this to say:

I want us to tap into all the talents of our society and today’s appointments are a step in the right direction. The number of women and BME candidates applying and being successful is moving in the right direction.

But, while this all sounds very positive, ultimately just 27% of the new QC titles have gone to women. Pitcher herself is concerned by this, and revealed today:

We have commissioned research to see whether there are barriers which may deter well-qualified women from applying.

Though the profession will no doubt await this research with interest, today is a day for celebration, for those too who have been made honorary QCs. Of those five, law students may recognise Professor Graham Virgo — whose contract law bible is a reading list staple — and Professor John Finnis, an academic whose take on natural law will be familiar to jurisprudence buffs. Solicitor Marcia Willis-Stewart, Professor Surya Subedi and Professor Cheryl Thomas round off the fivesome.

A big congratulations to all those who have made QC.

Read the full list of appointees here:

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