No congratulations or well done. I am confident that my male colleagues would not, and have not, received similar sentiments. Lady Hale's nugget of advice when receiving such comments is "Don’t let the b******s grind you down!”. Wise words.
Having just begun my legal career at the age of 22 and with only six months experience under my belt, I am all too aware that I cannot impart any great wisdom with regards to the issues women face throughout their careers. However, I can draw on my own experiences, as well as reflect on the immense progress women have made in the legal profession and in all walks of life. Less than a century ago, not all women could vote; yet at the beginning of 2019 the Prime Minister, First Minister of Scotland, First Minister of Northern Ireland and President of the Supreme Court were all women!
Indeed, women in the legal industry have come a long way. One of the first pioneers was Madge Easton Anderson. She was the first woman to graduate with a law degree from the University of Glasgow and went on to be the first woman to qualify as a solicitor in 1920. Exactly one century on, I have followed a similar path to Ms Anderson, graduating from the University of Glasgow and beginning my traineeship to qualify as a solicitor. Yet, unlike her, I face no real barriers based on my sex, nor am I entering a profession dominated by men; instead, I am pleased to see the profession is beginning to be dominated by women.
The Law Society of Scotland statistics for current trainees split by gender makes for staggering reading. Some 68% of current trainees are females. This has been the trend for some years and it looks set to continue with the gender split for those studying law at university broadly similar.
The issue however is that women in the legal profession have yet to dominate or, at least, equal their male counterparts in senior positions. A 2017 McKinsey report showed that on average, law firms had an almost 50/50 split between male and female fee earners – yet, in UK private practice the split at partner level is 30% female, 70% male.
Progress is clearly still to be made.
I am lucky to have been equipped with the support of successful women (and men!) to make progress in my career. As an only daughter – and middle child of three –I have never really been looked at or treated differently to my brothers but I have been on the receiving end of sexist comments – as I am sure almost every woman has at some point in their lives whether in the course of their career or personal life.
When reflecting on such comments, it is all too easy to become disheartened. However, looking at the trainee statistics and those of the wider profession I am both hopeful and confident that we will see gender parity soon.
We have all heard the expression ‘Behind every great man is a great woman.’ My question is when this will be ‘Beside every great man is an equally great woman’.