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UK lagging in female judicial appointments: Cosgrove

16 March 2012

An overhaul of the judicial appointments process is needed in order to achieve a better representation of women in the upper ranks of the judiciary, according to the first woman appointed to the Court of Session bench.

Speaking at an event organised by the Scottish Young Lawyers Association to mark International Women's Day, Lady Cosgrove said that Scotland and the UK were lagging behind other countries when it came to gender balance on the bench.

With only five out of the current 34 Court of Session and High Court judges being women, Lady Cosgrove said: "We ought to be doing considerably better by now. I used to think the trickle-up effect would lead to more women progressing, but I have become less sanguine in that view."

Calling for a "less rigid" selection process and a new structure of promotion, she added that other factors that would make a difference were flexibility in working hours, the availability of part time working and job sharing, more affordable childcare and "tax rules that don't punish double income households".

Lady Cosgrove told her audience that it had not been easy being the first female in an "all-male club". When she was appointed in 1996, it had been proposed that she be addressed as "your Lordship", but "I put my foot down and common sense prevailed".

At the same event Maggie Scott QC, criticising the slow rate of female advancement, commented: "We will only have achieved equality when mediocre women have become successful.”

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