In praise of …
Three of the nine United States Supreme Court Justices are women. In the UK Supreme Court, by contrast, there is just one woman among the 12 highest judges in the land.
Luckily for us, that one woman is Lady Brenda Hale. There are many reasons to admire Lady Hale, among which is the encouragement she gives to other women lawyers, not just by her example, but more explicitly, too. At a recent event I attended, she quoted the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s famous saying that ‘there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’.
I must declare partiality as a woman, but it seems to me, in this profession, in this country, even in 2015, we need help. When Lady Hale started her career in law, there were only six women among over 100 law students; the ratio at the bar was similar. Today, over 60 per cent of law students are women – and yet there continues to be inequality in opportunities and pay. The Bar Council has just recently released a report confirming the level of sexism that is still prevalent at the bar.
In the time that Lady Hale has been on the Supreme Court there have been 13 subsequent appointments to the bench, not one of them a woman.
With characteristic precision, Lady Hale has argued that the make-up of the judiciary matters because judges ‘are the instrument by which the will of parliament and government is enforced upon the people’. We couldn’t ask for a better role model for young (and not so young) women but all lawyers need to help reverse this depressing picture.