Lady lawyers? Whatever next!
April 26, 2019 1:48 pm
This is the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, which came into force on 23rd December 1919. That law opened up the possibility for women, and married women at that, to be lawyers, and even Judges. For a long time access to the legal professions was still very difficult though and educational opportunities remained very unequal: for example, women could only properly graduate from Cambridge after 1948 and in those days were still barred from most Colleges anyway.
So, 100 years after they could become lawyers, how have women fared? With girls having been educated equally to boys over a long period of time, and mental rather than physical ability required, you might expect equal numbers of men and women at all levels of the law. It is true that the number of women now becoming lawyers is greater than the number of men, with just over half of practising solicitors being women. However, the stats show that women lawyers generally lag far behind when it comes to promotion. The Law Society reports that only 28 per cent of partners in private practice are women and even less are practice owners. At the top end of the Bar and amongst Judges, women are generally even lower down the pile, with only about 15% of QC’s being women. Whatever is the cause of this continuing inequality? The answers are complex, some of them to do with social choices and human experience, and no Act of Parliament is going to change that any time soon.