The Bar Council has responded to criticism that the profession has an ‘overdose of testosterone’ but has stopped short of taking forward a suggestion that it create a mentoring panel comprised entirely of women.

The suggestion was made by Lord Pannick (David Pannick QC) who, in an article for The Times this week, made stinging observations about the struggles females face in the profession. ‘The perception that the robing room still retains some of the less pleasant characteristics of a changing room after a men’s rugby match inevitably has an adverse effect on career choices,’ the Goldsmith Chambers tenant wrote.

Among his suggestions to tackle the ‘serious problem’ of a ‘testosterone overdose’ was to create a senior mentoring panel made up of women. 

But in a statement, the Bar Council ‘noted the suggestion’ but added that its equality & diversity committee is supported by a retention panel, specifically aimed at assisting women. The panel, it said, comprises male and female barristers of a range of levels of seniority and practice areas.

‘There are a growing number of women’s groups across the bar,’ it said, citing the Association of Women Barristers and Women in Criminal Law. The Western Circuit Women’s Forum and Midland Circuit Women’s Forum both offer a mentoring scheme for women at the bar and there are plans for women’s forums on the other circuits, the bar council added.

Pannick’s observations followed a lengthy Twitter thread by criminal barrister Joanna Hardy who, based on her experiences, made pointers to her male counterparts including to ‘not behave like you are on a stag do’.

Bar chair Richard Atkins QC told the Gazette this month that he wants to make the bar a ‘happy place to be’ and to ensure women are retained throughout the bar.