Sexual harassment and discrimination continue at the Bar
20th Jul 2016
The unfair treatment of women at the Bar needs to be addressed following widespread claims of sexual harassment and discrimination, stated a damning report from the Bar Standards Board (BSB).
Over 40% of female barristers claim to have experienced bullying at the Bar, with work allocation and ‘favouritism’ from clerks or management towards certain barristers highlighted by respondents as undermining chambers’ monitoring policies. Many female barristers also noted that taking maternity or parental leave =had a negative effect upon their practice, impacting their work allocation, progression, and income.
The survey responses also showed that many female barristers are reluctant to report unfair treatment, with just 20% raising concerns due to fears of an impact on their careers and the prevailing attitudes at the Bar towards the reporting of harassment. The report also highlighted that levels of harassment had failed to improve significantly over the last 15 years.
Higher levels of harassment or discrimination were experienced by black and minority ethnic barristers (48%), compared with their white counterparts (38%). Of those that reported discrimination, 70% said they had considered leaving the Bar, as did 65% who had experienced harassment.
The online survey, launched to identify issues contributing to the lack of retention of female barristers and the effectiveness of the BSB’s equality and diversity rules, received 1,333 responses. 58% of respondents were ambivalent on the impact the equality rules had had on career progression, while more respondents disagreed (23%) than agreed (13%) that they had helped them remain in the profession.
Chairman of the Bar Council, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, stated that “Some of the experiences documented by the BSB are historic, but there is no room for complacency. This profession, like others, continues to face challenges around harassment and discrimination. It is a positive sign, however, that women now feel able to come forward with their experiences, and I believe that we are moving in the right direction.”