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This female barrister highlighted the prevalence of sexism in the legal world

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Pip Cook
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The young female barrister calls on fellow women to support each other to deal with sexism in the profession        

Rising star of the legal profession Joanna Hardy, who is widely regarded as one of the UK’s leading junior criminal barristers, turned to Twitter on Tuesday to call out sexism in the industry and urge women to ‘help each other’ rather than leave the male-heavy profession.

In her outspoken Twitter posts, Hardy accused male colleagues of acting like they are ‘on a stag do’, making ‘jokes about breasts and skirts’ and often communicating ‘solely in innuendo’, claiming that such behaviour is a key factor behind the growing number of women leaving their jobs in law.  

However, rather than focusing solely on the faults of her male colleagues, Hardy also gave a rallying call to fellow women in the profession to support each other in the face of sexism and other challenges in the notoriously tough industry. 

Hardy, who works for Red Lion Chambers in London, urged female professionals to ‘be kind’ and ‘help each other’, calling on senior women to ‘encourage those behind you’ and open up about personal issues such as managing family, career breaks and the ‘bravado at the bar’ she had called out in her previous tweets.

The fifth in a series of tweets, Hardy’s appeals to female colleagues emphasise the importance of women supporting each other when they’re given a ‘tough time’ in hostile workplaces.

Hardy has spoken out amidst growing concerns about the professions failure to retain female employees, following an article written by Chris Henley QC for the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) on Monday entitled ‘The Problem with Being a Woman at the Criminal Bar’. In the article, Henley quotes emails sent to him by several female lawyers detailing their personal struggles with life in the legal profession, which he admits has become an ‘increasingly hostile’ environment for women.

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Among the issues causing women to abandon life at the bar, Henley lists the ‘punishing hours,’ huge ‘personal sacrifices’ and a lack of ‘necessary childcare or breaks,’ all which make balancing work and personal life extremely challenging. He also notes that women are often guided towards lower paid and grueling cases, and includes an extract from an email sent to him by a young female barrister describing how she was shouted at so badly by a senior male colleague that she decided to leave the Bar altogether. 

In her tweets, Hardy picks up on issues raised in Henley’s article by providing colleagues with nine ways of helping women in the profession, including abolishing early morning listings ‘to help with childcare and care of elderly relatives’ and urging them to ‘think about [your] chambers policies for supporting female members.’

Hardy isn’t the first to speak out about sexism in the profession, with the most notable case being that of human rights lawyer Charlotte Proudman who sparked a debate on the subject in 2015 after publicly humiliating a male colleague after he called her ‘stunning’ in a message over LinkedIn.

However, Hardy’s appeal to fellow women to help each other thrive in a hostile professional environment gives a welcome new perspective. The young lawyer highlights the importance of women supporting each other to achieve success and change in yet another profession which has traditionally been seen as a ‘man’s world’. Hardy’s success has proved that it’s a woman’s world, too, but she knows that we need to work together to keep it that way.  

Images: Joanna Hardy

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