I’ve probably made sexist comments in my career, admits Lord Neuberger
Times Photographer Richard Pohle
Britain’s recently retired top judge has admitted that society’s mores have changed for the better and that when he was a young lawyer he would have made comments to women that would be inappropriate today.
Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, who stood down as president of the Supreme Court this year, said that while there had been a “sharp reduction” in overt sexism and harassment in the legal profession, more work was required to weed out unconscious discrimination and bias.
The judge, who has just moved to a leading set of chambers to become an arbitrator (see below), admitted that “I may have said things early in my career that I would be quite embarrassed about now”.
He was speaking at a conference on gender diversity yesterday at the City of London law firm Simmons & Simmons.
He said that “many leading organisations in the legal profession have done nothing or very little” about the problem of sexism.
However, he said it was encouraging that his successor at the Supreme Court was a woman, Baroness Hale of Richmond, and that his retirement had created the opportunity for another woman, Baroness Black of Derwent, to join the UK’s top bench.
He backed the idea of blending a new system of judicial careers with the traditional common law model of late-entry judicial appointments as a way of encouraging more women to the bench.
However, he rejected the idea of launching a quota system for women appointees to judicial posts, saying that he was also lukewarm on proposals for gender targets on the bench, saying that “targets have a way of morphing into quotas”.