The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published its annual report on Diversity at the Bar. The report shows that the profession became increasingly diverse in 2021 and that a greater proportion of barristers disclosed their demographic data.
Men still outnumber women at the Bar, but the overall percentage of barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds now matches the proportion of people from minority ethnic backgrounds in the working age population in England and Wales. Women and barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds remain underrepresented as Queen’s Counsel and people from a Black/Black British background remain underrepresented at all levels of the Bar.
Some of the key findings include:
- The percentage of women practising at the Bar overall increased by 0.6 percentage points to 38.8 percent during the last year;
- Male QCs still outnumber female QCs, but the percentage of female QCs increased from 16.8 per cent in December 2020 to 17.9 per cent (1.1 percentage points) in December 2021;
- As of December 2021, 56.6 per cent of pupils were women and 43.4 per cent were men (when excluding those that have not provided information on gender). The proportion of women pupils is broadly in line with that seen in 2019, and is almost 7 percentage points higher than that seen in 2020;
- The percentage of practising barristers from minority ethnic groups overall increased by 0.5 percentage points in 2021 to 14.7 per cent, matching the estimate of the percentage of the working age population in England and Wales (as of July-September 2021);
- Different minority ethnic groups have varied levels of representation at the Bar. The report presents disaggregated data for different minority ethnic groups:
- Asian/Asian British barristers made up 7.8 percent of the practising Bar in December 2021 – an increase of 0.2 percentage points year on year (or 2.7%). This compares with 6.4 percent of the working age population who identify as Asian/Asian British;
- The proportion of practising barristers who are Black/Black British rose by 0.04 percentage points to 3.3 percent in 2021; this compares with around 3.6 percent of the working age population;
- 3.6 per cent of the practising Bar are from a Mixed/Multiple ethnic background as compared with around 1.7 percent of the working age population;
- The percentage of QCs from minority ethnic backgrounds has increased by 0.8 percentage points year on year to 9.6 per cent;
- The proportion of pupil barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds decreased by 3.2 percentage points from a record high in 2020 to 19.8 per cent, but remains higher than for any year between 2015 and 2019, and higher than those from these backgrounds in the working age population;
- Of the 60.2 per cent of barristers who provided information on disability status to us, only 6.8 per cent disclosed a disability. This is substantially lower than the percentage of disabled people in the employed working age UK population estimated at 16.4 per cent; and
- The number of pupils as of December 2021 was 511, which is 157 more than that seen in December 2020, and slightly higher than the average number of pupils each December from 2015-2019, which was 472
The response rate amongst barristers disclosing their diversity information increased across all categories in 2021 except for a very small decrease for gender which was already over 99 percent.
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 Head of Equality and Access to Justice, Shadae Cazeau, said:
“We are pleased to see that the Bar is increasingly diverse, but there is still more work to be done to make the profession truly representative of the society it serves, which includes the need for chambers and employers to audit their recruitment practices. As the regulator, we are committed to taking action to help achieve greater diversity and would encourage members of the Bar to help us in identifying gaps in the diversity of the profession by disclosing protected characteristics on MyBar.”
The full 2021 report on diversity at the Bar can be found on the BSB website.
 . In each category percentages are expressed as including those barristers who did not provide data except in the case of ethnicity and disability where they are excluded. For the latter, this is in order to make more like for like comparisons with national level data which also excludes non-responses.
Notes to Editors
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