International Women’s Day 2019

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On this year’s International Women’s Day we consider the theme ‘Balance for Better’. While the gender gaps that are apparent across many areas of modern day life are not ‘news’ there is still a long way to go to reach a gender balance at all levels.

2019 marks 100 years since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 was introduced, the aim of which was to “amend the Law with respect to disqualifications on account of sex”.

Prior to the introduction of this Act, women were prevented from working in a number of professions simply because of their gender. Three years later in 1922 the first woman, Miss Ivy Williams, was called to the bar and Miss Carrie Morrison was the first woman to be admitted as a solicitor.

A further 97 years on in the present day, we now have a woman sitting as the President of the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom. When Baroness Hale began her legal studies in Cambridge in 1963 she was one of only 6 female students in a class of over 100.

The progress since this time that has been made in the numbers of women entering the legal industry should certainly not be disregarded. The Law Society reported that in the academic year 2017-18, of the almost 19,000 UK students accepted to study law at an undergraduate level 68.8% of those students were female. In the year up to July 2017, 62.3% of trainees were female and 61.6 of the newly qualified solicitors admitted to the roll in the same period were women.

The increase in the number of woman entering the legal profession should certainly be celebrated. It is interesting to not that at higher levels, whilst Baroness Hale holds the position as President of the Supreme Court, out of the 12 Supreme Court Judges, only 3 of these are women.

In 2018 another significant step was taken to increase the number of women in influential roles in the legal industry with the appointment of Christina Blacklaws as the President of the Law Society. One of the themes that Christina Blacklaws has worked to promote during her presidency is women in leadership in law.

As we mark International Women’s Day 2019, we can all celebrate and recognise the huge advances that have been made, both since 1919 and in more recent years, to advance the position of women in law.

At Fiona Bruce LLP 50% of our Partners are female and 10 out of 17 of our qualified solicitors and trainee solicitors are female. (Correct at time of publication on 8th March 2019).

To find out more about International Women’s Day click here .

To find out more about the history of women in law over the last 100 years click here