The Bar became more diverse during 2017 although further progress is still needed
The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published its annual report on Diversity at the Bar. The report shows that progress was made in 2017 with regard to both diversity at the Bar and to the
disclosure rates of barristers providing data.
While the diversity of barristers is improving, the report shows there is some way to go before the Bar is fully representative of the public it serves. Some of the key findings include:
- at 62.8 per cent men still outnumber women at 37.0 per cent at the practising Bar. However, the overall percentage of women increased by 0.5 percentage points (pp) during the last year;
- the percentage of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) practising barristers has increased by 0.5 pp since December 2016. 12.7 per cent of the practising Bar is now BAME;
- male QCs still outnumber female QCs, but the percentage of female QCs increased from 13.7 per cent in December 2016 to 14.8 per cent in December 2017;
- the percentage of BAME QCs has increased by 0.8 pp year on year with 7.2% being BAME and 89.2% being white; and
- the gender and ethnic diversity of pupil barristers is roughly in line with the population of England and Wales, with 51.7 per cent of pupils being female and 16.1 per cent being BAME.
Disclosure rates amongst barristers have improved markedly since the BSB started collecting diversity data in 2012. The lowest rate of disclosure, which was between 3 and 5 per cent in some categories in 2012, is now 34.1 per cent (for declaring religion or belief). The disclosure rate for gender is the highest at 99.97 per cent and it is 92.5 per cent for ethnicity.
The BSB has a statutory responsibility to monitor and promote equality and diversity both as an employer and as the regulator of barristers in England and Wales.
BSB Director of Strategy and Policy Ewen MacLeod said: “Equality and diversity at the Bar are priorities for us as a regulator, because the more accessible the profession is for everyone, the more it is able to represent the society it serves. This data shows a steady improvement in gender and ethnic diversity at the Bar, especially in the increase in the number of female QCs, but we are conscious that there is more that needs to be done to improve diversity within the profession. We urge all barristers to complete the diversity data questions when renewing their practising certificates for the year ahead. This will enable us to act on accurate evidence to improve diversity.”
NB: The percentage of practising BAME barristers has increased by 0.5 percentage points since 2016 to 12.7 per cent. The press release issued in January 2017 to launch the 2016 Diversity Report mistakenly said that the number of practising BAME barristers was 12.7 per cent, but the published 2016 report contained the correct percentage of 12.2 per cent.
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