We need a strong, intersectional alliance of women at the Bar.
In 2019, 83.3% of QCs were male, 16.2% female; 87.4% were white; 0.2% of practitioners at the Bar that year reported that their gender identity was different to that assigned at birth. And yet, as barristers, our duty is to represent members of a society that is immensely more diverse than we are.
As women, we experience the struggle for equality on our very skin. It is a struggle that we share with other minorities - it joins us to others who are trying to build a profession within an environment that has for centuries excluded us.
We launched Themis to create the space and conditions necessary to join our voices and work together to think about, address and reform the structures that inhibit us as minorities at the Bar.
Themis, The Intersectional Women Barristers’ Alliance, was born this April 2020, during lockdown. The founding members were two junior barristers (Margherita Cornaglia, Doughty Street Chambers, and Ailsa McKeon, 6 KBW College Hill) and one BPTC student (Luna Spada). Our Steering Group has now grown, and you can find information about each of us on the “About” section of our website. The Steering Group was created to bring forward Themis’ agenda up until the Annual General Meeting, which we hope to hold at the end of this year. During the AGM, we intend to elect a formal Committee, via a democratic vote by members. For this reason, following our successful launch event on Equal Pay Day (recording available on our website), we are hoping to grow our membership body to enable the AGM vote.
‘The better we understand how identities and power work together from one context to another, the less likely our movements for change are to fracture’ – Kimberlé Crenshaw.
Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term ‘intersectionality’, introducing the idea that when it comes to thinking about discrimination and inequality, categories like gender, race, and class are best understood as intersecting and overlapping rather than distinct.
Intersectional feminism, and how that makes our experiences as women at the Bar both different and similar, provides the foundation for our outlook and our work. Themis’ initiatives will be guided by the understanding that patriarchal structures are but one expression of a dominant form of power that inhibits our ability to fulfil our potential, personally and professionally.
We want to run activities that will enable us to achieve structural, systemic change. We want to share information about best practices, to foster debate and discussion amongst members and to actively lobby the BSB and sets of Chambers for change. We want to push for equal opportunities, equal access to the Bar and equal progression within the profession. We want to make sure women have reason to remain at the Bar, and to shape our initiatives to cater to the caring responsibilities that women too often shoulder alone. We want to work with others who share our values to increase the impact of our work.
Above all, we are open to suggestions and want to promote ideas and initiatives born within our network and facilitate the advancement of those who self-identify as women, at any stage of their career and from all walks of life. We know other organisations exist focussing on specific experiences and identities. We're keen to work together with other organisations in the interests of all women at the Bar; we don't want to duplicate efforts or step on any toes!
Themis is currently working on organising an Intersectionality Series of events. We are hoping to announce the first event within the upcoming weeks.
Towards the end of the year, we will hold our first AGM virtually. Committee members will be elected; so keep an eye out if you are interested in joining the committee.
For more information see Themis’ Website: https://www.themiswomen.org/
To register for Themis’ RBG Viewing Party visit:
Our Membership and Allyship application forms are available online, and our email is firstname.lastname@example.org, in case anyone would like to get in touch with ideas, comments, criticisms or if you would like to be involved more actively with us before our first AGM.
Please do join us and help us carry forth a project that we all very much have at heart. We look forward to (hopefully) meeting you!
Margherita Cornaglia, Ailsa McKeon and Luna Spada, co-founders of Themis