The Bar Standards Board has set itself a minimum target of 30% for diversity data collection from barristers on sexuality, religion and disability.
It is also planning more work on the under-representation of women at the bar, and reports of harassment and discrimination.
Barristers have been much more forthcoming in giving the regulator details of their age, gender and ethnic origin. Last year the BSB said it obtained details on these characteristics from 78% of the profession.
However, collection rates on information about sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, religion or disability was around 11-15%.
Improving diversity data is among the BSB’s equality objectives for 2014-15, agreed at last month’s board meeting.
Despite introducing a number of equality rules in 2012, the BSB said the problem with the under-representation of women – whose numbers drop off sharply at around 12 years’ call – persists and “and it is clear that further work is required in order to evaluate the impact of the rules and ascertain whether there is more that the BSB could do to increase the percentage of women at the Bar and tackle attrition”.
The BSB has also agreed to review the number of received reports of harassment and discrimination at the Bar, and formulate recommendations for further “targeted activity”, if necessary. In 2013, 25% of BME barristers reported having personally experienced bullying and harassment in research that also showed that bullying and harassment disproportionately affects female, BME and disabled barristers.
A BSB spokesman commented: “In January 2014 we introduced the new BSB Handbook and a new duty on barristers to report and self-report serious misconduct, including harassment and discrimination.
“As set out in our new equality objectives, we will be monitoring these reports to gauge levels of compliance with this relatively new rule. All relevant data will be reviewed by our equality team who will set out recommendations for action.”
The BSB has set itself internal equality objectives to improve the diversity of its board and committees, and make sure it has up-to-date information on board and committee members.
The BSB is not alone in struggling to obtain diversity data from lawyers. The Solicitors Regulation Authority is at the end of a prolonged battle to ensure firms returned data for its latest collection exercise.
Despite extending the deadline for returning information by a month earlier this month, 1,000 law firms had failed to comply. Earlier this month it emerged that the regulator had managed to reduce the number of firms to just over 100.