I welcome the opportunity to speak in this international women’s day debate. There are many topics that could be covered: the gender pay gap, childcare provision, sexual harassment, violence and abuse against women domestically and in war zones, and equal representation, to name but a few.
However, I want to focus on the legal profession and to look at the number of young girls who choose to study law and the opportunities that women have in the profession, assessing in particular the progress that has been made by women in that currently male-dominated profession.
Interestingly, according to the latest statistics that are available from the Scottish Parliament information centre, in 2015-16, of the students who graduated with a law degree in Scotland, 63.5 per cent were female and 36.5 per cent were male. In the same year, of those who completed the diploma in professional legal practice that is required to be taken after the LLB degree in order to become a solicitor, 66.1 per cent were female and 33.9 per cent were male. According to the Law Society of Scotland, since 2012 more women have completed legal traineeships than men. In 2016-17, the figures were 322 women and 173 men.
Thereafter, as the next career stages progress, it becomes evident that the higher percentage of women than men starts to decline. In 2015, marginally more fully qualified female lawyers held practising certificates than men.
However, in terms of women reaching the top of the legal profession, Scotland can be proud of some exceptional women who have, during the past decade, provided hugely encouraging examples of how women can lead the way for the younger intake of female lawyers. Scotland’s first female Lord Advocate—the head of criminal prosecution in Scotland—Dame Elish Angiolini, was appointed in 2006 and held the post until 2011. Although the head of the judiciary in Scotland, the Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General, has never been a woman, the Lord Justice Clerk, Scotland’s second most senior judge is, for the very first time, a woman—Lady Dorrian.