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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

Latest BSB diversity data: progress made but work still to be done

Latest BSB diversity data: progress made but work still to be done


Barristers who are female or from minority ethnic backgrounds remain underrepresented

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today (27 January) published a summary of the latest available diversity data for the bar.

The data showed the continuation of several longer-term trends, including increases in the proportion of practising barristers who are female, from a minority ethnic background, have primary care of a child, have a disability and/or are aged 55 or over.

Notably, there has been an increase of 3.3 percentage points (pp) in the proportion of female pupils (to 59.9 per cent) and a continued increase in the proportion of all practitioners who are female, better reflecting the demographics of the UK population, with the proportion of women at the bar having increased 0.4pp since December 2021. As of December 2022, women constituted 39.7 per cent of the bar compared to an estimate of 50.2 per cent of the UK working age population. 

The percentage of barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds has increased 0.5pp since December 2021 to 16.3 per cent, compared to an estimate of 16.4 per cent of the working age population in England and Wales as of July – September 2022.

However, barristers from Black/Black British backgrounds are still underrepresented at 3.4 per cent of the bar compared to 3.8 per cent of Black/Black British individuals in the working age population as a whole.

The BSB said the report sets out an evidence base from which relevant and targeted policy can be developed, to support the BSB in meeting its statutory duties under the Equality Act 2010, the Legal Services Act 2007 and in achieving its equality and diversity objectives under the Equality and Diversity Strategy 2022-2025.

Mark Neale, BSB director general, said: “It is encouraging to see the Bar continuing to become more diverse and more representative of the society that it serves but it is clear that women and barristers from minoritised ethnic backgrounds remain underrepresented at the most senior levels of the Bar.

“This underlines the importance of the work we are doing to review our Equality Rules and, in partnership with the profession, to support barristers and chambers in meeting those rules. The under-representation of both women barristers and of barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds among KCs underlines the need for chambers to monitor the distribution of work and act to address inequalities.

“Collecting this data is vital for the BSB in our work to promote diversity at the Bar and the response rate to the questionnaire we include when barristers renew their practising certificates annually is improving. But I would urge all barristers to respond to our questionnaire so that we can obtain the most accurate picture we can of the diversity of the Bar.”