Glass ceiling still holding back female barristers

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The percentage of female barristers has risen from 3.5 per cent to just over 15 per cent in 2016, according to research by the Chambers Asia-Pacific.

Despite the increase in the number of female barristers this year, researchers found through their interview process, that the nature of networking may still play a significant part in the remaining glass ceiling.  A decrease in the amount of work has meant that female barristers are hit with a double challenge.

“Solicitors are hanging on more to work that would once have gone to barristers,” one interviewee told researchers.

“The Bar is still very conservative and it gets worse in the hard times,” said another.

The number of barristers listed in the Australia Bar chapters of Chambers Asia-Pacific has increased year on year The Australian reported that it’s a promising increase to build on.

Women make up around 20 per cent of the number of barristers in NSW and around 27 per cent in Victoria.

In firms, the number of female partners at the top 10 ranked firms in Australia, the figure remains around 23 per cent.

“I don’t see much diversity — it’s not improving — it’s pretty bad across the board. Women are disappearing in their 30s,” one interviewee told the researchers.

“I’m all for gender diversity, but some firms put part-time females on, which doesn’t really work for me,” said another.
  • BH on 5/02/2016 12:23:00 PM

    There is also the problem that the women who are attracted to the bar do not actually represent diversity in terms of practice or performance. There is no point of difference that I can put to the client other than that the barrister is female. If I am going to get the same blowsy, arrogant, bluster from either male or female barrister, it is near impossible to convince my client to opt for someone who is not the dominant paradigm. Sorry. Women have to be proud of being women and to support and acknowledge that point of difference in each other. I dont see that coming from the "legal sisterhood" (if there is such a thing) sadly. At the moment, every female barrister I meet is trying so hard to be one of the boys that they are setting themselves up for failure. They are not, and will never be, one of the boys. They dont need to be.

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