“Shocking discrepancies” in Bar gender pay gap analysis

Pinto: We must confront this problem

The gender pay gap at the Bar is “alive and well”, the chair of the Bar Council said yesterday, after new figures looking at individual practice areas revealed “shocking discrepancies”.

In all but two of the 30 practice areas analysed, female barristers received a lower proportion of the gross fee income than their representation in the field.

Licensing was the worst – while women made up 23% of licensing practitioners in 2019, they only received 10% of the fees generated. Arbitration and mediation work was similar – 24% of practitioners but only 11% of the fees.

The figures, provided by Bar Mutual, did not take into account seniority or working patterns, and so did not show that women and men in comparable situations were necessarily being paid differently.

Other big gaps were seen in admiralty work (17% of practitioners, 9% of income), commercial and financial services (23%, 11%) and competition (27%, 18%).

Only family lawyers handling children work reversed the trend, albeit marginally – 59% of practitioners were women, receiving 60% of the income. Some 28% of defamation barristers were women and took home 28% of the fees. Professional negligence and construction were near parity.

But the rest of the family law Bar – the only other practice area where women were in the majority – saw 52% of barristers receive just 37% of the income.

Ms Pinto said: “We must confront, not hide, this profession-wide problem… The fair allocation of work must be embedded across the whole Bar.”

The Bar Council’s Modernising the Bar accelerator programme, launched early this year, “could not be more critical in making a concentrated effort to ensure every barrister can succeed”, she added..

The Bar Council will be tracking this data over time “as it will indicate whether we are moving towards equal access to work for women at the Bar”.

Bar Standards Board research published last week that that female barristers and those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were likely to earn less than male and White counterparts by every measure – self-employed barristers, employed barristers, QCs, barristers based inside and outside London, barristers with similar years of call and those in the same areas of practice.

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