Non-white, female lawyer at 11KBW says she’s ‘fed up’ with people doubting that she’s a barrister

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By Katie King on

Harini Iyengar asked ‘Wow, are you actually a barrister?’ in Temple today

An experienced employment lawyer has made a series of tweets today about the subconscious bias she faces as a non-white, female barrister.

Harini Iyengar told her thousands of Twitter followers that she’d been stopped by the porters’ lodge in Temple by a man and woman canvassing for today’s City of London elections. However, when she told the canvassers that she’s a barrister, this happened:

11KBW tenant Iyengar, who said the canvasser was surprised a non-white woman was actually a real barrister, admitted things like this have been happening to her since she was called in 1999.

Speaking to Legal Cheek shortly after the tweets were made, Oxford-educated Iyengar provided some further information:

I tweeted about it because it’s a good illustration of what subconscious bias is. The canvassers were very courteous and chatted to me for a while about today’s City of London elections, before he asked me whether I was a barrister, I said yes, and then she found it difficult to believe that I really was. I explained that I was fed up of people doubting that I was a barrister, we discussed it politely, and she explained that she had been surprised and impressed that I actually was a real barrister.

In response to Iyengar’s tweets, Leisha Bond, a divorce specialist at St Phillips Chambers, revealed she too is used to being told she doesn’t look like a barrister. Sometimes, people even think she’s a receptionist.

Iyengar’s tweets this morning are not the only candid insight we’d had into her life. Last spring, she spoke at her former Oxford college about being groped by a senior professor there. Addressing the crowd at Brasenose College’s Graduate Students’ Dinner, she revealed the physical harassment had taken place at the same event two decades previously, and because of this “culture” she did not return to the elite university for 15 years after she graduated.

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