23 September 2019

BSB report shows diversity at the Bar heading slowly in the right direction but that further progress is needed

27 January 2017

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published its annual report on Diversity at the Bar. The report shows that progress was made in 2016 with regard to both diversity at the Bar itself and to the disclosure rates of barristers providing data.

While the diversity of barristers is improving, the report shows there is some way to go before the Bar is fully representative of the public it serves. Some of the key findings include:

  • The practising Bar is still weighted towards males, with 63.4 per cent being men and 36.5 per cent being women. However, the percentage of women increased by 0.6 per cent during the last year;
  • The percentage of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) practising barristers has increased by 0.2 per cent since 2015. 12.7 per cent of the practising Bar is now BME;
  • Male QCs still outnumber female QCs, however the percentage of female QCs increased by 0.7 per cent during the last year. 13.7 per cent are female, while 86.3 percent are male;
  • The percentage of BME QCs is broadly unchanged having increased by only 0.1 per cent last year with 6.4 per cent being BME and 90.1 per cent being white (the remainder did not disclose their ethnicity); and
  • The gender and ethnic diversity of pupil barristers is roughly in line with the population of England and Wales, with 51.3 per cent of pupils being female and 16.3 per cent being BME.

Disclosure rates amongst barristers have improved markedly since the BSB started collecting diversity data in 2012. The lowest rate of disclosure, which was between 3 and 5 per cent in some categories in 2012, is now 30.8 per cent (for declaring caring responsibilities for others). The disclosure rate for gender is now only just below 100 per cent and it is 91.8 per cent for ethnicity.

The BSB has a statutory responsibility to monitor and promote equality and diversity both as an employer and as the regulator of barristers in England and Wales.

BSB Director of Strategy and Policy Ewen MacLeod said: "While the data show an improvement in gender and ethnic diversity at the Bar, especially at pupil stage, there is more that needs to be done to improve diversity within the profession. One of our three strategic aims is to improve diversity and to enhance equality in practice and culture at the Bar. We urge barristers to complete the diversity data questions when renewing their practising certificates for the year ahead. This is essential to enable us to act on evidence to improve diversity. Diversity and equality within the profession are priorities for us as a regulator, because the more accessible the profession is for everyone, the more it is able to represent the society it serves."

Read the Report on Diversity at the Bar 2016 here.


Notes to editors

About the Bar Standards Board

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