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Gender in the 2022 UK Bar rankings

The Chambers UK Bar team have continued its efforts to recognise and promote female barristers practising across the UK. Learn more about our efforts and the outcome in the 2022 edition of the guide.

Published on 14 December 2021
Written by Eleanor Crundwell
Eleanor Crundwell

How many women were ranked in the Chambers UK Bar guide 2022?

The total number of overall rankings held by women in the Chambers UK Bar guide has gone up year-on-year, from 1,969 in 2021 to 2,254 in the 2022 edition of the guide, a near 15% increase.

Recognising female talent at both the junior and senior ends of the Bar

Although in recent years gender diversity at the Bar has been significantly increasing at the junior end of the Bar, with female pupils now regularly outnumbering male pupils, there has also been a notable increase in the number of female barristers across all levels of seniority.

According to the Bar Standards Board's 2020 survey, as of December 2020, almost 41% per cent of non-QCs were female, and the proportion of female QCs sits at nearly 17% per cent, an increase of 0.6% from 2019.

Percentages of up and coming rankings held by women in the 2021 and 2022 guides

This growing number of women at the Bar is reflected in the UK Bar guide 2022 rankings, where not only are over 50% of up-and-coming rankings (barristers under 10 years call) held by female barristers, but the upper echelons of the rankings at both silk and junior level are beginning to be more and more populated by women. This year the number of female barristers ranked as a Star Individual (an elite ranking for those barristers who have established themselves as outstanding leaders in their field) has increased by 25%, and the number of Band 1 rankings held by female barristers has gone up to 430 from 367, a 17% increase.

Sets with the highest proportion of women ranked

Several sets have had a lot of success in both attracting and retaining their top female barristers, the table below presents the 25 sets with the highest proportion of rankings held by women in the 2022 UK Bar guide:

Although it is unsurprising to see several sets in this list who specialise in areas of law which traditionally attract female barristers, for example family law, it is interesting to note that this list includes many other sets of chambers which cover a wide range of practice areas such as crime, employment, human rights and shipping, among others.

While the majority of chambers featured in this table are London-based, the list also includes sets of chambers from across the UK, including the Midlands, Northern and Western circuits, as well as Scotland.

What Chambers is doing to champion gender diversity in the UK Bar rankings

During our research, we will request to interview a 50:50 split of male and female barristers, to make sure we are receiving feedback from as diverse a range of sources as possible. We also encourage barristers to make sure they put forward a diverse list of referees for us to speak with in each practice area.

Prior to the 2022 research, we updated our submission template to include a survey requesting each set's diversity statistics. This enables us to clearly measure the presence of diverse lawyers in each set and increases our understanding of the market, enabling us to better reflect the diversity of the profession.

For the past two years, the submission template for the UK Bar guide has also included space for each barrister to note if they have caring or other responsibilities that would affect their workload. The information provided is completely confidential, and allows the research team to note when significant caring responsibilities account for a reduced workload.

This section on the submission has been particularly important as the last two cycles of research have been undertaken during the Coronavirus pandemic, and it has been widely reported that working women were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. On average, women took on more caring responsibilities than men, resulting in many working women having to reduce their workload to make time for childcare and home schooling. This trend was noted across a wide range of sectors, and with around 27% of barristers who responded to the BSB's 2020 survey reporting that they have primary caring responsibilities for one or more children, and 6.5 per cent of the Bar reporting that they provide care for others for one hour a week or more, it can be expected that the women at the Bar were also affected by this sudden shift.

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