The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act centenary

23rd December 2019

Today marks the centenary of women in law as the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 became law on 23 December 1919.

Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919

The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 helped paved the way for women in law and to mark this centenary year, DAS Law produced a series of articles looking at the issues facing women working in the legal sector.

The Dearth of Female Partners and What Needs to Change were first published in DAS Law and feature Blake Morgan senior solicitor Kerry Blomerus.

Kerry on the dearth of female partners

For me, there needs to be more balance between work and home life. We all have to work and the legal industry in particular is one that is difficult to balance with home life, as it is not your normal 9-5 job. As a senior solicitor and a mum to a three-year-old boy I am extremely conscious in ensuring that I give my all to my career, as well as my family.

I consider myself lucky to work for such a firm that prides itself on ensuring all staff have this balance. Sadly, this is not the case in all firms, although it has improved over the last 12 years that I have been working within the legal industry.

I think it would be useful to have a mentor system in all firms, similar to that in place when you are a trainee, but which focuses more on career progression and on ways that women are able to obtain the balance of having a career without restriction and enjoyment of family life without the concern of not working full-time and how this will impact on climbing the career ladder.

If it is widely known within the legal profession that becoming senior management or a partner will not mean sacrifice of family life, I think more women will start to apply for these positions. At Blake Morgan we have a number of female partners and legal directors, the majority with family and childcare needs.

For me this makes it a possibility that any level of career progression I choose is an achievable one and will be based purely on my capability and what I personally can bring to the firm; the fact that I am a woman and a mother will not come into play.

What needs to change according to Kerry

In general I would like to see more women in the judiciary and senior management, and for this to be celebrated throughout the industry. The fact that in 2018 we had our first female President of The Supreme Court, the wonderful Lady Hale, is a reflection of how far the profession has come since its first female was called to the English Bar in 1922 following the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, but it’s clear that we are still some way from becoming a gender equal profession.

In my 12 years of working within the legal industry I have seen change in female leadership and the confidence in women speaking up about gender bias and wanting a change. I would like to see the industry becoming more transparent in pay between men and women, and, for the industry to be a reflection of people within society. Not just that of women, but also, ethnicity, social background and sexual orientation.

As lawyers we need to be able to sympathise with our clients and understand their needs by expanding the diversity throughout the industry and by making it more accessible for everyone to come into the profession. This will provide a more rounded industry.

The future

The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act was introduced to remove disqualifications in respect of sex and there has been a lot achieved but there is still work to be done.