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BSB agrees actions to tackle unfair treatment of women at the Bar

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today announced how it intends to work with the profession to make further progress in eliminating the discrimination, harassment and other unfair treatment of female barristers.

The actions announced today include:

  • working with others, including the Bar Council, the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks (IBC) and the Legal Practice Management Association (LPMA), to address cultural issues at the Bar which may be contributing to various types of unfair treatment for women, and to consider future training needs;
  • reviewing how the BSB’s approach to supervision and enforcement can take account of equality and diversity best practice;
  • measuring the overall effectiveness of the Equality Rules in the BSB Handbook and considering whether these need to be improved or updated; and
  • reviewing the role of Equality and Diversity Officers within chambers.

This follows the regulator’s publication in 2016 of its Women at the Bar report which found that women could face unfair treatment across a number of areas including harassment, discrimination, allocation of work, flexible working and parental leave. It also found that women at the Bar were reluctant to report unfair treatment and that there were issues with poor implementation and non-compliance with policies, and unsatisfactory levels of awareness of the Equality Rules.

Since the Women at the Bar report was first published, the BSB has made a specific commitment to identify practical solutions to improve the retention and progress of women at the Bar. To this
end, the regulator undertook further research to identify how best to tackle these issues. This included a series of workshops with over 50 attendees including barristers, clerks, chambers’ directors, circuit leaders, Specialist Bar Associations and Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) providers. A summary of the 2017 research findings is published today.

The BSB’s Director of Strategy and Policy, Ewen MacLeod said: “We are determined to work towards eliminating all forms of harassment, discrimination and unfair treatment. These proposals
seek to focus on the unfair treatment of women barristers and to improve the retention and progress of women at the Bar. Our research has been very valuable in enabling us to formulate the action plan for our future work. We would like to thank the many participants who came to our workshops and contributed to our plans.

“It is clear that the profession needs to continue to work together to address these issues, ensure more wide-spread compliance with our Equality Rules, learn from the examples of good practice that exist at the Bar, and to focus on delivering practical and workable solutions. We will continue to work with the profession and with the Bar Council, who share our objective, to improve the position of women at the Bar”

You can read a summary of the 2017 research findings here.

You can read the full 2017 research report here. 

You can read the Women at the Bar action plan here. 


About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: