Kate Bex QC, barrister at Red Lion Chambers, shares her thoughts on International Women's Day.

 

#ChooseToChallenge

 

What's the best piece of advice you've had about being a woman at the Bar?

I'm not sure that I have ever been given advice specifically about being a woman at the Bar.  Perhaps that explains a lot?!  The best piece of advice I've been given (that I can remember), is that brevity is a virtue not a vice.  I think the Resident judge at Harrow used to have it sellotaped to Counsel's row. 

Who has been your biggest professional supporter through your journey at the Bar? 

Bobbie Cheema (now Cheema-Grubb J) and my pupil master and ex head of chambers David Waters QC both provided much needed support and guidance when I was a junior and I am not sure either realises how important that was to me.  Marios Lambis remains a rock and the world, especially my world, is lucky to have him.

What is your greatest professional achievement?

It has to be taking silk.  But along the way there are a handful of cases that have become milestones and which stay with me in my head.  Thinking about it for this piece, I realise how many of them involve justice for vulnerable women who had no expectation of being believed after years of 'gaslighting'. 

How can people play their part in challenging bias around women at the Bar, and why is it so important?

It is important that we challenge bias when we see it because how else will it change?  We can make that process easier by being more supportive of whistle-blowers, who traditionally are often hung out to dry.

What’s the single biggest change you want to see for women at the Bar?

Although not as bad as it once was, I think that there is still a feeling that sex cases are for women.  It prevents women from having equality of access to the best of all types of work.  I was aware of the issue and was able to consciously step aside from it and make myself available for homicide work which I wanted to nurture.  I do still hear some men say "Oh no, I couldn't possibly do that sort of case" as if somehow it is easier for a woman than a man to speak to twelve jurors about a penis.