|From the published piece of John van der Luit.|
Gender inequality is the greatest injustice on the planet and is a form of apartheid, according to civil liberties advocate Shami Chakrabarti. The Director of Liberty has lamented the lack of progress in the global struggle for equality between the sexes in a new short film for The First 100 Years project.
In the first of a series of films featuring 100 women who have shaped the legal profession since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 paved the way for women to become lawyers, Chakrabarti described her own personal experiences of sexism, both as director of Liberty and while a practising lawyer.
Speaking of her early career, Chakrabarti said: ‘I didn’t find pupillage the happiest of experiences. I did see young men being preferred over young women for pupillage. I can remember quite overt sexism at times when I was a young barrister and I can remember quite overt sexism when I was a lawyer in the Home Office.
‘I can remember being admonished by a barrister for looking too confident as I walked into the clerks’ room to discuss a brief; how dare I have that kind of confidence and I was sure that was because I was a woman.
‘And I can remember a senior colleague in the Home Office asking me what the personal circumstances of a junior colleague were before we negotiated what her pay should be. The underlying question being, does she have a husband to support her or should she be paid the same as her male counterparts?’
Chakrabarti said that gender injustice was the greatest injustice on the planet and compared it to an apartheid ‘…that is millennial in its duration and global in its reach’.
In the short video Chakrabarti also recalls being labelled the ‘most dangerous woman in Britain’ by the Sun newspaper, and the reaction of the BBC Question Time audience when the then Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon, accused her of an ’emotional’ response when debating the use of torture.
Chakrabarti’s comments follow a year in which inequality between the sexes and allegations of sexism have been rife within the legal profession.
Official figures show that women lawyers make up 60 per cent of practice certificate holders under the age of 35. However, the number of women partners fell from 8,115 to 7,985 in 2014, amounting to just one in four partners across the profession.
Speaking at ARK Group’s Women in Legal event last week, Patricia K Gillette, a US partner of global firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, told women lawyers to make a stand, propel their careers forward, and end unconscious bias in the workplace.
Giving her inaugural speech last night, the chair elect of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, said: ‘No serious profession can survive and thrive in the 21st century and attract the best and the brightest, without being concerned about diversity throughout the profession, and access to the profession across society.