Women begin to close gender gap in some judicial appointments

Women are being selected for some key judicial roles in greater proportions than men. Figures published by the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) today show that at least half of candidates chosen for recent positions, up to the level of High Court, were female.

This was despite lower numbers in the eligible pool, where the number of women applicants was as low as 19 per cent for some roles.

Areas with a particularly strong female judicial representation were district judge (civil) with 43 per cent, deputy immigration and asylum judge (50 per cent), salaried social entitlement judge (54 per cent), fee-paid social entitlement judge (54 per cent) and fee-paid immigration and asylum judge (56 per cent).

In other legal and non-legal roles, including recorder, women were selected above or close to the number of eligible applicants.

One exception, however, was with a very low number of potential circuit judges in the heavyweight crime division, where only 18 of 126 candidates were female.

The selection exercises were completed between October 2011 and March 2012 and a total of almost 1,000 women have now been selected.

In the past, the Association of Women Solicitors (AWS) has held workshops to help encourage female solicitors to apply to the bench. And  in 2010 the InterLaw Diversity Forum for LGBT Networks teamed up with the JAC to improve the chances of LGBT candidates being selected for a judiciary career (8 November 2010).

JAC chairman Christopher Stevens said the strong performance of women for entry and middle level roles “bodes well for the future” if they want to progress to senior positions.

He said: “The Government’s commitment to more salaried part-time working at senior levels should also help make a difference for women and other groups.”

The JAC figures also revealed that the selection of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) judges was above or in-line with the levels in the eligible pool in some sections, but they were less successful in others, such as salaried roles.

The JAC said one explanation for some of the lower BAME selection numbers was a lack of supporting evidence for judicial skills claims.

Stephens added: “There are some good results for BAME candidates. It’s positive to see successes in both the courts and tribunals and in a salaried legal exercise.

“We’ll discuss these findings with BAME groups and the judiciary to help make further progress in future exercises.”

Following Baroness Neuberger’s 2010 report (21 June 2010) into judiciary diversity, the Law Society said that there needed to be an improvement in the number of solicitors reaching the higher echelons to better represent the society it serves.

Today’s JAC figures showed solicitors made up 73 per cent of district judge (civil) selections and had solid results in fee-paid immigration and asylum judge, fee-paid and salaried social entitlement judge and deputy immigration and asylum judge exercises.

But when they applied to be recorders, circuit judges and designated immigration judges in low numbers, they achieved few or no recommendations.

Stephens added: “Solicitors haven’t always seen the full range of judicial roles as an area of interest. This is starting to change.”