Three-quarters of countries fail to meet European judicial diversity target

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By Katie King on

Though ten do have more female Supreme Court judges than they do male

© UK Supreme Court / Kevin Leighton

New research put together by the Council of Europe shows 72% of countries are failing to meet its ‘40% of women judges’ target, with the United Kingdom putting on a particularly poor show.

The report, released today, traces Council of Europe countries’ progress on a “balanced participation of women and men in political and public life” recommendation, adopted by Member States in 2003. It shows just 28% of the 43 countries that provided data on its judicial diversity in “High/Supreme Courts” meet the 40% target.

The UK is right at the bottom of the table on this one, boasting a lame 8.3% of female judges. Only Italy’s percentage is lower (7.1%).

Do bear in mind, however, that this data is from 2016, when only one female justice sat on the country’s highest judicial bench. Now, Lady Hale has been joined by Lady Black, giving the UK a Supreme Court gender diversity percentage of 17%.

Lady Black, formally robed, being welcomed to the bench by Lady Hale

This is of course still far lower than the 40% recommended by European officials, but does mean the UK leapfrogs the likes of Iceland (11.1%) and Spain (13%).

While most judiciaries still report low gender diversity, it’s worth noting there are a higher percentage of women on the bench than there was in the past decade.

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Three-quarters of countries which provided judicial data to the Council of Europe in 2008 and 2016 demonstrate an increase in the percentage of female judges. While that does leave a quarter of countries reporting decreases, the overall percentage of female judges in the Council of Europe’s highest courts is 33%, compared to 25.8% in 2008.

It’s also worth noting there’s a host of countries where far more women are judges than men. The country with the most female-dominance is Bulgaria with 76.9%, though Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Serbia and the Czech Republic all have a higher percentage of women judges than they do men (in their supreme courts anyway).

The 40% recommendation and today’s subsequent report did not simply cover the judiciary but many aspects of political and public life.

While the UK did reach the 40% threshold for ‘women among heads of regional government’ (50%) and ‘women party leaders’ (60%), there are too few women mayors (15.3%), senior and junior ministers (23.5%), women appointed to the House of Lords (25.6%), women elected to the House of Commons (29.5%) and women elected to regional parliaments (33.7%).

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