Women in Law: A matter of equality
Jonathan Hollingsworth, LLB Law student:
This year Queen Mary's Pro Bono Society and Women Working in Law have held a panel discussion concerning the opportunities for women at the Bar and as part of the Judiciary. The event was also attended by male students giving a wide range of perspectives and viewpoints on the issue.
19 August 2014
Traditionally careers at the Bar or at commercial law firms were seen as the domain of men, with few women reaching the partner or QC level due to a lack of flexibility from employers or by having to choose between a family or a career. Even today there is still a lack of women at commercial law firms at the partner level though they make up to 60% of trainees.
Alexandra Marks, Linklaters partner and High Court Judge, explains that 'imminent changes in law, coming in about a year, will allow each employee to request for flexible working hours from their employer. Obviously, such an enquiry might be rejected but it has to be backed up with reasonable written reason. I consider it a massive change. I am optimistic about the future of women in both the bar and among the City law firms.'
According to Freya Newbery, the Bar is no longer prejudiced and solely male-dominated. Moreover, relating to her 28 years experience, she is convinced that it is possible to combine a great career with whatever else you want to do, particularly pointing at setting up a family.
The panel also discussed the increasing numbers of men choosing to leave their careers to raise families or let women be the sole breadwinner of the household. However, there is still a the stigma about men working part time to have a more active role in their family's life.
Today women are able to gain entrance in both the Bar and commercial law firms. The real issue surrounds the ability to be able to maintain careers through raising a family without having to quit. Yet there is reason to be optimistic, as the future looks bright for equality as employers offer more schemes for flexible working and attitudes continue to change.