Women barristers report continued sexual harassment and discrimination at the Bar

Sexual harassment and discrimination is still happening at the Bar, a survey of women barristers carried out by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has found. The BSB surveyed some 1,300 female barristers – almost a quarter of women working at the Bar. 

Some two-fifths of respondents said that they had been subject to sexual harassment, but only a fifth went on to report it, with others remaining silent for fear that speaking out might damage their careers. Of those who did report the unacceptable behaviour, only half were happy with the response. 

The respondents also reported serious cases of discrimination at the Bar. Comments included: “Women in my chambers are pigeon-holed into the lower paid, publicly funded ‘care’ work. They are seen by the clerks as the secondary earners in their families, even though this is often not the case.”

Dr Vanessa Davies, the BSB’s director general, said: “We cannot tolerate a situation where women are treated unfairly in the workplace. Lack of diversity and discriminatory working culture and practices impair the Bar’s ability to meet the needs of the public and could deter potentially great candidates from pursuing a career at the Bar.”

The BSB is now writing to every chambers in England and Wales to urge them to improve their workplace cultures and compliance with equality rules.  

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