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

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By Katie King on

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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