Vote 100: the gateway for female lawyers
12 July 2019
Jersey traces its source of law back to the Duchy of Normandy’s ‘ancienne coutume’ which evolved some 800 years ago. It’s striking then that the rise of female lawyers in the legal profession is, in comparison, very recent history.
12th July 2019 marks one hundred years since a law came into force giving women aged thirty and over the right to vote, this age requirement being reduced to twenty one later that year. Whilst paving the way for women to start taking their seats as politicians (Ivy Forster elected thirty years later as Deputy in 1948; Gwyneth Huelin elected in 1954 as a Senator, for example), their entry in to the legal profession was slow. Perhaps that’s not surprising if Jurat Lempriere's views were reflective of the time as he argued against giving women the right to vote because, ‘A boy knew a great deal about politics from his early years, but with a girl it was very different, her attention being generally given to household duties.’
However, the advent of war and women’s contribution to it helped challenge such views and in 1945 women were, at last, permitted to vote on an equal basis to men.
It would be another 23 years before a female was sworn in as an Advocate of the Royal Court of Jersey though. Anita Sarella Regal was sworn in on 15 August 1968, just over fifty years ago, and for the first time a woman was involved in shaping Jersey’s law. Forty years later, in 2008, Bridget Shaw was sworn in as the first female Assistant Magistrate.
Women at Mourant have been reflecting upon the changes they have seen over the years. Wendy Luce started work as a Jersey conveyancer in 1982 and it's believed that she was the first woman in the firm to be allowed to wear trousers, receive maternity pay and, in 1993, be allowed to work part-time. These rights are such startlingly recent history.
Today, one hundred years since women got the vote, more women are graduating in law than men. Indeed, in the last ten years, 52% of all new advocates and solicitors are women. However, their number is not as balanced at the upper echelons of the profession with reports suggesting that there is just one woman for every seven point five men in the six largest Jersey law firms. The gender pay gap, unconscious bias and childcare are often cited as reasons why women are not always rising to the top of the profession.
At Mourant, we believe that everyone should be equally empowered to reach their full potential. We value the contribution of the many women who are vital to our success and we strive to help people of all backgrounds and experiences to achieve their professional goals. As a firm, we can trace our roots back over 170 years and our ongoing success has been borne through our ability to evolve with the times. That’s why we’re celebrating the significance of the vote being given to women a century ago and what impact that has had on both our firm and the Jersey legal profession. By embracing social change and supporting equality, diversity and inclusion as part of our core values, we look forward to celebrating the next one hundred years of women in law.