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Gap between men and women’s earnings at the Bar shows more work to do, says Bar Council

Bar Council

2 min read Partner content

Women barristers still earn 34% less than their male colleagues, according to new analysis by the Bar Council.

In 2021 men’s average gross fee earnings across all self-employed practice areas decreased by 5%, while women’s increased by 6%. This means the disparity between men and women overall declined slightly from 39% in 2020 to 34% in 2021, but across different practice areas there is a mixed picture.

Practice areas where the gap remains or is widening:

  • Immigration: earnings decreased for both men and women, and the gap increased from 33% to 38%
  • Chancery (Contentious): average fee income increased for both men and women, but women continue to earn 39% less than men (compared to 38% less in 2020)
  • Personal injury: overall fee income slightly decreased, and women earned 53% less than men (compared to 52% less in 2020)

Practice areas where the gap reduced in 2021:

  • Commercial and Financial Services: the gap reduced from 57% to 51%, but remains very wide in one of the higher earning practice areas
  • Crime: a sharp drop in fee income overall (overall earnings were 19% down in 2021), and the gap between men and women reduced from 38% to 35%
  • Employment: the gap reduced from 16% to 6%

Practice areas where women earn more than men:

  • Defamation: women have overtaken men and are earning 36% more
  • Family (Children): women have always out-earned men, but the gap closed to 3% in 2021 from 4% in 2020

Mark Fenhalls KC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:

“This year’s data analysis shows there remains a long way to go to close the earnings gap, particularly in the higher earning practice areas.

“Through the Bar Council’s modernising the Bar programme we are focused on evidence-based and practical actions to tackle inequalities at the Bar.

“Chambers can make a significant difference through ensuring fair distribution of work, including briefing practices, marketing opportunities, and support for new barristers and those returning to the Bar.

“We can’t just wait for change. It’s up to all of us to recognise inequalities and take steps to tackle them.”

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