According to a study by the Council of Europe published on Thursday (September 20th), while progress has been made across the continent in increasing diversity among judges, particularly when it comes to gender, the UK is lagging behind most other nations, with only Azerbaijan and Armenia employing fewer female professional judges.
The comprehensive study compares the judicial systems of all the Council’s 47 members – which include Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Iceland and Switzerland as well as the EU’s constituent states – looking at a range of factors, including gender equality.
It found that across Europe a gradual “feminisation of the judiciary resulting in a near gender equality” has taken place, with 48 per cent of all professional judges now women.
In some countries, women in fact make up the majority of professional judges, such as Slovenia, where they constitute 78 per cent of judges, Greece (65 per cent) and France (64 per cent).
However, in the UK the opposite is true, with females making up just 23 per cent of professional judges in England and Wales and 21 per cent in Scotland.
This means that England and Wales fare better in terms of gender equality only in comparison to Armenia, where women make up slightly fewer than 23 per cent of judges, and Azerbaijan, where females account for just nine per cent of judges. Scotland comes only above the latter of these two.
Meanwhile, the report also noted that across Europe, the proportion of female judges is lower for more senior posts.
“From a general point of view, it is possible to see a feminisation of the judiciary resulting in a near gender equality, with an average for all states or entities of 52 per cent men and 48 per cent women,” it states.
“However, to make equality between women and men a reality in practice, some additional efforts are needed: among the responding states, a general trend of decrease in the percentage of women judges in comparison with men judges as one moves up the judicial hierarchy should be noted.”