Women are being excluded from vital networking opportunities, according to letter
Over 200 top lawyers have signed an open letter calling on the Garrick Club in London to scrap its men-only membership policy.
The exclusive club is frequented by a number of top judges and QCs, and acts as a “forum where senior members of the legal profession socialise and network with each other”, according to the petition published this week.
It argues that male lawyers can, through their memberships, “form connections with senior legal practitioners and members of the judiciary to support their professional aspirations”. The same opportunity is “expressly denied” to women.
Women are welcome in most parts of the club, but only as the guests of male members.
The letter has so far attracted signatures from 210 lawyers, including QCs, law firm partners, barristers, associates and other legal professionals. Seventy-one are men and 139 are women.
“When women are excluded without good reason or cast as ‘guests’ — good enough to be wined and dined but not to belong — in a forum in which professionally advantageous invisible connections are made, it undermines the position of women and feeds the conscious or unconscious bias of men.”
The petition goes on to argue that the male-only membership rule “cannot be consistent with a commitment to equality and diversity”, and urges members to “call a vote and to vote in favour of admitting women”.
The petition follows the news in September that the club was reportedly facing legal action after businesswoman Emily Bendell instructed law firm Leigh Day to seek an injunction to prevent it from continuing to operate the “discriminatory” policy. In a pre-action letter sent to the club in September, lingerie company owner Bendell argued the club’s refusal to admit women represents a breach of the 2010 Equality Act.
The Garrick Club has been approached for comment.