Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Male judge culture 'deters women'

By Danny Shaw
Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

Lady Butler-Sloss
Elizabeth Butler-Sloss - now retired - became a well-known female judge

Some women are deterred from becoming judges by what they see as a culture of "male self-confidence and intellectual posturing", says a report.

The review, by Prof Dame Hazel Genn of University College London, identified reasons for so few female barristers and solicitors becoming judges.

Last year 15 of the 164 most senior judges in England and Wales were women.

The report said the chief concern was that the male-dominated senior judiciary would be "hostile" to them.

"For some female barristers, the Bench is merely seen as an extension of a male-dominated and conservative Bar, with the same culture of male self-confidence and intellectual posturing but with no respite, and therefore an unattractive prospect as an alternative career," said the report.

It's a very jolly life NOT being a judge - getting loads of money, making jokes and doing really interesting work
Female QC

The review - commissioned by the Judicial Executive Board - concludes that these perceptions are likely to continue until there are sufficient women appointed to change the look of the environment.

Other factors which deterred applicants were the relatively low pay of judges compared with the rates earned by top barristers.

In addition, some judges are required to work on the "circuit" - presiding over hearings in towns and cities outside London.

One female QC said: "I'm married and I like to have dinner with my husband and friends rather than talk to a load of High Court judges".

Another said: "It's a very jolly life NOT being a judge. Getting loads of money, making jokes and doing really interesting work."

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