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‘We need a 50% target of women in all chambers’, says Charlotte Proudman

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#MeToo pioneer calls for tougher sanctions for sexist behaviour

#MeToo pioneer barrister Charlotte Proudman has again called for greater gender parity across the legal profession, arguing that there should be a 50% target of women in all chambers.

Citing research which shows that men make up 85% of QCs and 72% of the judiciary, the Goldsmith Chambers barrister claims women remain “disempowered from shaping the very laws that impact upon their lives”. Calling instead for a 50% female target, Proudman writes:

“A healthy democracy requires that our legal profession represents our diverse society rather than a niche demographic of white, upper-class men. Gender parity can also have a positive influence on workplace culture and even reduce sexual harassment.”

Published in The Guardian, Proudman’s latest comment piece comes just days after a global report uncovered a shocking degree of bullying and sexual harassment affecting men and women across the legal profession. On this, Proudman says:

“Valuable time and money spent on this latest research could have been better spent on formulating radical measures to end harassment rather than another survey that merely confirms the existing problem.”

Elsewhere, Proudman calls for tougher regulatory sanctions on sexist behaviour. Citing the recent case which saw a barrister fined £3,000 for engaging in “unwanted sexual conduct” towards a woman in a bar, she continues:

“What can be done to encourage women to make complaints and discourage men from engaging in sexual harassment? We need tough sanctions for findings of sexual harassment to highlight the severity of the conduct. The perpetrator ought to be suspended from the profession, while undertaking an intensive training programme on gender-based violence, paid for by them. Once a report from an independent expert shows a change in attitude and behaviour of the perpetrator, they could be reinstated.”

Proudman — who hit headlines in 2015 after she tweeted a screenshot of a message from City lawyer Alexander Carter-Silk, in which he said she was “stunning” — also calls for the creation of an “office for gender equality and diversity”. This, Proudman explains, “would handle all complaints of sexual harassment about barristers” and “provide a long-term vision for equality and diversity with key targets each year.”

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47 Comments

Anonymous

As long as they aren’t all like her.

(58)(6)

Ms Who

I think she’s a Time-Lord/Lady/Person

She looks completely different every time she pops up for a bit of publicity.

Has she regenerated again?

(21)(3)

Anonymous

How about “no” love?

(9)(10)

Anonymous

No we don’t, sorry. We need to pick people on the basis of their skill and experience.

Business is not a right place to air or promote your political views. Please keep these to yourself as nobody is interested and we are here to make money – not friends.

(67)(8)

Steven Seagull

Agree. The best should be selected, regardless of gender. So if the best on any given day or year happen to be all male (or all female), then so be it.

(20)(6)

Anonymous

How would this help mediocre wimmin?

(13)(5)

Magic Coke Trainee

Yes, because ALL people in top City firms, top chambers and public office got there solely based on merit. The fact is most people in ‘top’ jobs do not get there based on skill and experience. The corporate world is full of two-faced office politics, arse-licking, Old Boys banter and other variables that affect social mobility.

Giving chances to women, ethnic minorities and LGBT people may help offset the disparity caused by previous discrimination i.e. where someone did not get the job purely based on protected characteristics. It was not uncommon for large employers to operate a silent ‘no blacks’ employee policy many years ago before legislative action.

(19)(17)

Anonymous

Right.. but what about a target for working-class men, BAME individuals, the state-school educated, blondes, red-heads, tall and short people?

Is it not discriminatory to have a target for one class but not another?

(45)(5)

Anonymous

Charlotte Proudman advocates POSITIVE DISCRIMINATION ie. ‘Let’s just have discrimination when its suits us’.

(46)(4)

Anonymous

At pupil and very junior level 50% or more are female. The problem lies further up the chain.

In my chambers 65% of under 5 years call are female. 55% of under 20 years call are female. 0% juniors above 20 years call are female. 30% silks are female.

There is clearly a problem. But it’s not at the junior end. A junior like Charlotte well knows that the problem isn’t with her lot, but those higher up

(10)(3)

Anonymous

Hmm, I wonder what major life event typically affects women in their mid to late thirties and which could explain this phenomenon.

Oh, I know! Misogyny. That must be it.

(40)(7)

Anonymous

Ye pregnancy is misogynistic.

(5)(7)

Barrister with unhealthy work/life balance

Making a career at the Bar (or indeed any job which requires you to put the needs of clients first and forement) requires an unhealthy degree of dedication and sacrifice. The vast majority of men and most women do not wish to have an unbalanced life, putting career first. Why would you when there are so many other things to do with a person’s life.

The acute problem with having a balanced life is that you are will lose work to that demented barrister that is willing to sacrifice ‘balance’ at the alter of a great career. The loss of ground to the demented is almost imperceptible to start with. A case here or there, when the normal folk take holiday (as most people do). But the compounding effect over 5 years means that the levels of earnings and success become stark. It is a quiet secret that most people do not suceed at the Bar, people quietly leave over time.

The reality is that the tiny minority of people (or barristers) that display that type of dedication are men. That is not to say that women don’t too, but they are a minority of a minority.

To take an obvious example: 99% of men and women can’t run quicker than 11 secs. However, the vast majority of people that can run quicker than 11 seconds are men, coupled with a handful of truly expectional women. This inbalance right at the top end makes it look as if there is huge discrimination whereas, in actual fact, normal men and women are making life choices to focus on other aspects of life, which leaves space for the tiny majority of men (and some women) to excel.

It is amazing to me that very bright people cannot see the above. They simply see the absence of women from the top end and then conclude that it must be discrimination. However, if you let men and women arrange their lives as they wish, there will be unequal outcomes. I can only conclude that these well meaning people are refusing to even entertain the possibility that there are inherent differences between elite men and elite women from the rest of the population. I understand that reluctance because the a related question is then liked to BAME participation. Why are some people from some cultures able to excel in the UK when other people from different communities do not despite both persons being first generation immigrants to the UK (to take an exampe). That would require a level of discussion and sensitivity that is beyond most people; who can’t help themselves to make simplitic conclcusions. I don’t disagree with the reluctance. It is safer, therefore, for the well meaning to conclude that discrimination is the sole reason for the differences between men, women, ethnic groups then look at other, more plausible factors such as the inherent value of one person’s culture to succeed (i.e. focus on education and stable family upbringing) over and another.

(41)(7)

Anonymous

Thanks Dr Peterson

(5)(8)

Anonymous

He’s not wrong though?

(18)(1)

Anonymous

Nonsense for the Bar. One can have a healthy life/work balance at the Bar and be very successful. The problems for retaining women is an awful lot of them have babies and/or rich husbands. Until these two problems are addressed progress will be slow.

(6)(6)

Barrister with unhealthy work/life balance

“The problems for retaining women is an awful lot of them have babies and/or rich husbands. Until these two problems are addressed progress will be slow.”

Why are these problems to be addressed? Surely, you are making the point. The majority of people want children. Why should marrying rich husbands (who are likely to be part of the tiny minority of people described above) be something that needs to be addressed?

You can create every initiate in chambers to assist people start a family i.e. rent reductions etc. but the harsh reality is that clients want you to pick up the phone when they call. One missed call is unlikely to make the difference. But over 5, 10, 15 years, it makes a difference.

(10)(1)

Anonymous

You just believe that excuse to explain why you didn’t make it, buddy.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

The bigger problem isn’t gender diversity, but ethnicity diversity. And the biggest problem of all facing the bar is class diversity. The one thing most men, women and ethnic minorities at the bar have in common is that they are from comfortably middle class backgrounds.

(11)(14)

Anonymous

Can we stop giving her publicity please?

(32)(4)

Anonymous

😂

(3)(2)

Anonymous

She looks better with her new haircut. One might even go so far as to say stunning…

(31)(2)

Anonymous

Until men can carry babies, this is not going to be ironed out.

(14)(2)

Anon

Intersectional theory is full of inconsistencies. We are told there are no differences between the sexes and gender is a social construct yet we also NEED a 50/50 split because of the particular attributes (which according to their theory don’t exist) more women will bring to the workplace. Here’s an idea, treat everyone as an individual based on their own attributes and personality and not as a member of an oppressed group and see how we get on.

(13)(6)

Just Anonymous

Diversity that arises from equality of opportunity is great.

Any other diversity is worthless.

People who try to engineer diversity through quotas are missing the point entirely.

(23)(2)

Anonymous

“Conversationalist says something lunatic in attempt to stay in public eye”.

(7)(3)

Anonymous

Balls. That should say “controversialist”.

(4)(1)

Trumpenkrieg

Have a day off

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Oh, Trumpenkreig, you’re back!

(0)(3)

Anonymous

Rent a quote

(0)(1)

Anonymous

1) What if women and men have different interests and want to be more than 50% of criminal barristers and don’t want to be 50% of the tax bar (because, quite honestly, it’s dull as f*#k)? If there are divergent interests and so natural balance possible, how many women should be forced into an area of law they don’t like to satisfy Ms Proudman’s view of the ‘greater good’? Funny she doesn’t mention this, but quotas cannot solve this issue.

2) It is well knownthe problem is not getting women in the junior end – its retaining them past 30, in large part due to the difficulties of having children as a self-employed practitioner. People need to stop with the platitudes, just saying “we should aim for 50%” etc, and tell us how they intend to deal with this because even senior female judges are saying this is an intractable problem. Quotas cannot solve this issue.

Some women want to leave after having children and thats fine. Some don’t but feel they have to to have a family. That isn’t good and we should try to find a solution. To pretend its just a question of quotas is silly.

(10)(3)

Anonymous

*no natural balance due to individuals making free choices

(2)(0)

The Bar Necessities

I would agree with Anon 10:35 that the problem is not recruitment at pupil and starter tenant level. There was an FT piece recently that analysed the statistics for people leaving the independent Bar.

The data suggested that most women who do leave tend to do so at around 5-10 years “year of service”. I would imagine that in real terms this is mostly women who go off on maternity leave. Those who have two children then may extend for another 12 or 19 months, meaning some members of chambers are out of practice for 2.5 to 4 years. It is hard, certainly not impossible, to return to practice after such a long spell out. For some areas of law, the problem is exacerbated because a return to work means regular days in court. The astronomical cost of childcare may make a return to practice uneconomical, or certainly unappealing.

One of the challenges facing the bar is to work out how to avoid this problem. I am not naive enough to think there is a solution that works for all the Bar. All of this is anecdotal, but I understand the problem in old-school chancery sets is attitudes amongst senior members. In PI, family and crime, it is the number of days in court & childcare.

An issue that nobody discusses the impact of the tax rules on barristers. Historically, HMRC rules required a change from cash accounting to accrual accounting after 7 years in practice practice (I think). Nowadays, one does not have to change basis until turnover reaches £300,000. The old rules did tend to mean that, if you went off on maternity leave and returned, you would have to find a significant amount of money based on your accruals notwithstanding the fact that it might not get paid for a long time. I suspect this change has made things easier, but it will not necessarily have worked its way through yet.

To that end, I would agree that all members ought to be able to take a small number of six month ‘rent-free’ (or reduced rent) periods in chambers. That would make return after maternity leave (or other forms of extended leave) easier from a cash-flow perspective.

I think Charlotte Proudman is right to highlight the issue. I do not agree that it is usually a function of sexism (or sexual harassment, although I don’t think this is what she is suggesting) as opposed to a lack of effective policies to ease return into independent practice. It would be great if the Bar Council could help study this problem across different areas of practice and propose solutions.

(5)(4)

Anonymous

I would have thought that most chambers offer the ability to take periods away without having to pay their fees, it probably just isn’t much publicised.

(0)(0)

Steven Seagull

So not interested in having the best barristers, but instead obsessed with equal representation of the sexes? So equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity.

(9)(4)

Anonymous

You’re making a mistake if you think that distinction means anything to left wingers these days.

At its core, intersectionalist thinking doesn’t believe there is such a thing as ‘equality of opportunity’ – it’s a smokescreen to protect the privileged. Instead, there are only groups of people abusing their arbitrary power within a hierarchy, and enforced equality of outcome is the only way to rectify that.

Some might call this ‘post-modern’ but more accurately its a Marxist form of modernism – just replace ‘bourgeoise’ with ‘white patriarchy’ and ‘capital’ with ‘power’.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

What nonsense, unless she is arguing to bar women at the bar having children, marrying rich men and choosing to leave the profession. There is already massive discrimination in favour of women at the level of judicial and silk appointments, and the current silk and judicial total percentages are meaningless, given they can represent appointments made up to 20 or 25 years ago.

(12)(4)

Anonymous

Thomas can you please accept my invitation to connect on LinkedIn? I love you.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Ah! No incontinence based comments because they are actively deleted!

Fair enough…

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Anyone conflating ‘sexual harassment’ with violence should themselves be sent on an intensive gender based violence training course until they have demonstrated a change in attitude.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Is that the course with whips and chains? Where do I sign up?

(2)(1)

Anonymous

There are far more posh white women at the bar than there are working class men – don’t hear anyone caring about the latter. It’s not trendy enough for the virtue signallers

(26)(1)

Anonyman

Of course this was originally published in The Guardian. A pitiful newspaper.

(12)(4)

Anonymous

You’d think that someone who is expected to deal with nuanced material would have worked out by now that rigid quotas won’t provide an adequate solution to any problem.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

I note that Charlotte doesn’t appear to draw attention to her own school and socio-economic background in any of her many profiles online. Not trying to hide the fact that she’s yet another well-heeled junior in a profession which is far less accessible to those without money and connections than either gender.

(16)(2)

Essex QC

Does anybody actually care about anything this dreadful lady has to say?

(19)(1)

Anonymous

99% of women look better with long hair = fact

(15)(0)

Comments are closed.

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