Two-thirds of female barristers face sexism at work

They also face barriers to working areas such as criminal law...

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Central Criminal Court, Dublin

A new study by the Bar of Ireland has found that two out of three female barristers have experienced sexism at work.

A third of respondents also believed that a colleague or senior member of their profession have negatively impacted their career.

According to the Irish Times, one woman was "written off by many solicitors" as soon as she took maternity leave.

Another commented that "male clients don't want female counsel as it would be seen as weak to be defended by a woman". 

Meanwhile, areas such as commercial and criminal law are seen as "less available" to them when compared to family law and general practice.

Of the 436 Law Library members surveyed, just 5% worked in criminal prosecution and 32% in criminal defence.

Only 13% worked in constitutional law and 21% in commercial law.

Women also felt these areas were "closed shops" and that the Bar in general is not meritocratic.

Some 41% said they suffered from a lack of self-confidence compared to their male colleagues.

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The Bar of Ireland says it will introduce a range of measures to better support women in light of the findings.

This includes a pilot mentoring scheme which is being operated in partnership with the Law Society.  The programme has 11 participants and will be evaluated at the end of the year and expanded if successful.

A forum for open and honest discussion may also be established.

Caroline McEnery, Managing Director of the HR Suite, said:

"It's difficult sometimes to say 'stop actually, I find that offensive' or 'stop, that's not appropriate'.

"But I think from an organisational perspective, the culture and the core values of the organisation can really proactively embed that into the culture of the organisation".