The Law Society of England and Wales this year reported that women are expected to account for over half of all solicitors by 2020, for the first time becoming the majority gender in the solicitor profession (Future of Legal Services). This reflects statistics showing that more women than ever are becoming students of the law, and pursuing a legal career. In 2014, women made up over 64% of all law students in England and Wales.
The Lord Chief Justice reported last month that, there has been a “steady improvement” in diversity amongst the judiciary, with more than half of all judges under 40 years of age now being women. However, while some appointments are at the highest ever, the figures remain disappointing, with only 23 women on the High Court bench and 8 on the Court of Appeal. Famously, there are more Supreme Court Justices called Jonathan, Robert or Anthony, than there are women sitting in our highest court.
As users of the justice system, women face specific barriers. When a woman offends, she is proportionately more likely to be remanded in custody than a man. Women are statistically more likely to be the victim of a crime. One in twenty women in the general population report being the victim of rape before the age of 16 (Corston Review). Women in prison are far more likely to self-harm. 49 % of women prisoners report having a history of attempted suicide (Bromley Report, Autumn 2015).
In civil justice, most recently, women victims of domestic violence have had to fight to secure fair access to legal aid (Rights of Women).
There is still much work to be done.
Through our collection of interviews, JUSTICE showcase the talents and experiences of this group of truly inspirational women throughout International Women’s Day, and throughout the weeks following, using social media to highlight the varied careers and experiences of the those working at the heart of our justice system. Their diversity of experience illustrates that from Law Centres to the City, the talent needed to support justice in each of the jurisdictions of the UK is immense.
We hope they will inspire all of the members of our JUSTICE student network – of both genders – and the wider JUSTICE membership.
You can find out more about the JUSTICE Student Network here.
Join us on 19 March 2016 for our Annual Student Conference. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear Andrea in conversation with Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty – and to discuss the human rights challenges of the future with two of the women leaders of our oldest law reform and campaign organisations! Sign up now.
You can find out more about International Women’s Day and the UN Pledge for Parity, here.