The Next Iron Lady and the ‘Gender Divide’
18 July 2016 by Lauren Hancock
With the appointment of the UK’s second ever female Prime Minister dominating headlines and a host of female politicians appointed to the cabinet, some may wonder does “the gender divide” still exist in the UK?
Overall, of the estimated 65 million people in the UK some 50.7% are women and of these 69.2% aged between 16 and 64 are employed. Comparatively, 79.3% of males aged between 16 and 64 hold employment.
Although Theresa May’s newly unveiled cabinet remains male dominated at 70% to 30%, with eight female members it holds the most women of any previous Conservative administration, matching only Tony Blair’s record. (Interestingly, Mrs May’s Government also has the lowest proportion of privately educated ministers since 1945.) This 70/30 divide is fairly reflective of UK politics as a whole; at present of the 650 Members of Parliament, 191 are female. By way of comparison, back in 1951, just 17 female MP’s were elected, making up only 2.7% of Parliament. Steady increases have been seen since then, with 26 female MP’s sitting in 1966, 41 in 1987 and 120 in 1997. It is notable that, globally just 22% of all parliamentarians were female as of August 2015, putting the UK ahead of the curve. Whilst there is clearly further headway to be made, this rapid and continuing increase over the past 65 years is encouraging.
By way of contrast, within the legal profession of the 160,394 solicitors on the roll, 49% are women and this diversity is set only to improve. Of the 21,775 applicants accepted onto LLB course in 2014, a substantial 64.8% were female. Similarly, of the 5,001 new traineeships registered with the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority in 2014, 60.8% were female, together with 60% of those admitted to the roll.
A 2014 survey of over 100, local, national and international firms found that over 57% of those employed as Trainees were female, together with over 57% of all Associates. On average, 24% of all Partners were female however with diversification apparent across the profession, this figure is set only to increase.
Gender diversity at the bar has further to go with female barristers making up approximately 35% of those practicing in 2015 however headway is clearly being made with women making up over 50% of those undertaking the first six of their pupillages in the same year.
Across the legal profession, there is increasing gender diversity which can only improve with the increasing number of female legal graduates each year. Whilst politics has some way to go in catching up, encouragement can be drawn from the recent formation of Mrs May’s cabinet and the increasing number of female MP’s in the UK as a whole.
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