Over 90% of letters published by the Gazette are from men. Why?
The Gazette is blessed among legal periodicals in having a vibrant – nay feisty – letters page. Next week’s issue is scheduled to carry no fewer than 13, encompassing a smorgasbord of subjects ranging from racism to sharia law, to Land Registry bureaucracy and the earnings of bathroom carpet-fitters (you’ll just have to read it).
From Carlisle to Bodmin, and way out west to Ynys Môn, readers are keen to engage with their professional magazine. And for that much thanks – compelling content reflected back at you and gratifying evidence of reader engagement for me.
Times have changed. Back when I joined the Gazette in 2007 the great majority of letters arrived by post – and were often comprised of fountain pen on pukka, watermarked writing paper.
Now almost all arrive by email. This may have something to do with rocketing postage costs attendant upon privatisation of Royal Mail, but is more likely a consequence of technological assimilation among solicitors.
One thing has stayed the same. I’d estimate that over 90% of letters published by the Gazette – including all 13 to appear on 31 March – are from men. Not because the editor is on some sort of covert mission to promote patriarchy, but rather because I get far fewer letters from women. And I can’t publish what I don’t receive.
Why should this be? It’s not as if we bang on interminably about sports cars or cage-fighting (with apologies to any women readers interested in either).
There may be a clue in an article published last year by The Telegraph, which reported on the composition of The Lawyer’s ‘Hot 100’ list of the profession’s stars. Of 46 women featured, not one had put themselves forward.
The Telegraph’s reporter picked up on this and spoke to some of them. All said they didn’t think of themselves as ‘stars’ and didn’t need press coverage or an award to ‘credentialise’ their position in their various firms.
I don’t much like drawing the inference that women don’t care as much as men (or some men) about being seen and heard, even when some might argue that this is rather to their credit. But with approximate gender parity now a reality in the law (if not, notoriously, in its upper echelon), it is surely regrettable that the Gazette’s letters page is not more representative of its readership.
So can I encourage women solicitors, if not to ‘lean in’ (as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg would have it), then at least to write in. On crisp, watermarked paper, if so desired.
Paul Rogerson is Gazette editor-in-chief