Ahead of Thomson Reuters’ next Legal Debate on 19 September, we are publishing a series of quickfire Q&As with each of the four debating panellists. At the event, Dr Charlotte Proudman, Barrister at Goldsmith Chambers, will be arguing in favour of the debate’s motion “quotas are the solution to gender equality in the workplace”.
Proudman tells Legal Insights UK & Ireland about her career journey so far, and her views on the challenges around tackling gender inequality in the legal industry.
How did it all start for you, and when did you first become interested in the law?
I recall my first exposure to the law. I shadowed a criminal barrister in the crown court. She was witty, sharp, young and attractive. I loved the way in which she used her voice to persuade a jury. She broke every stereotype of what it means to be a barrister in a man’s world. I thought if she can do it, so can I. From that day forward, I change my career trajectory, abandoned my plans to become a solicitor and applied to bar school. I never looked back.
Tell us about your role as a barrister at Goldsmith Chambers.
I work in the arena of human rights law, mainly family and immigration law. My specific expertise is in violence against women and girls, focusing on female genital mutilation and honour-based violence. I combine practice with academia, as a fellow-elect of Queens’ College, Cambridge where I will continue research in feminist legal theory. The law can play a valuable role in changing women’s lives for the better.
What influences have impacted your career path?
Spending time at Harvard Law School immersed in learning about feminist jurisprudence in America. Who better to learn from than Professor Catharine MacKinnon? I had the opportunity to spend time with her at Yale Law School where she was delivering her paper on Title IX [ the Education Amendments of 1972], a nuanced way in which feminists have used the law to advocate for women’s rights in educational institutions.
As a strong advocate for women’s rights, what do you think are the main challenges in tackling gender inequality within the legal industry?
While power remains vested in men, they will continue to have unaccountable power, which is susceptible to abuse, as can be seen from the MeToo movement. This can only change if we see diversity at the top of the legal industry. Still women remain the minority within the judiciary, as senior partners in law firms and senior barristers at the bar. The sexist culture that exists in the legal profession is one reason why there remains gender inequality.
The Legal Debate will take place at 17.30 on 19 September, at The Mermaid, Puddle Dock, London, EC4V 3DB. To register for your free place at the event, click here.