Minister for Justice and Equality, Samantha Sacramento MP, recently hosted an event for women lawyers, ahead of International Women’s Day, and to mark a centenary of women in the law. The event was generously sponsored by Mrs Donna Seruya Sackman.
The evening was opened by the Minister for Justice and was followed by speeches by two women who have been pioneers in the legal profession in Gibraltar. Mrs Seruya, who was herself the second woman to be called to the Gibraltar Bar in 1983, spoke about her experience as a lawyer in those early years as we as the importance of giving back to women in the profession.
This speech was followed by Mrs Justice Ramagge Prescott who was called to the Bar in 1988, and was the first woman to be appointed Stipendiary Magistrate and later appointed Judge of the Supreme Court and in 2017 was the first woman to be appointed Master of the Bench of the Middle Temple.
The evening was very well attended by the women in the Gibraltar Bar with diverse representation at all levels, including attendance by Ms Gillian Guzman QC, the first female QC in Gibraltar and also the youngest person, at the age of 39, to take Silk and many partners in local law firms.
The majority of lawyers in Gibraltar will have been called to the Bar in England and Wales and those in practice will be called to the Bar of Gibraltar and be on the Supreme Court register.
Almost 100 years ago, the first women was admitted to an Inn of Court in the UK, the Honorable Society of the Middle Temple. The Inn is responsible for the education and training of barristers. This was 24 hours after the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act came into force.
Until that time, women were excluded from being Barristers, solicitors and judges. This Act came a year after women in the UK were given the right to vote.
The first woman to be called to the Bar in Gibraltar was Pamela Benady in 1955. There are now 59 women at the Bar, just 24% of the 243 lawyers in Gibraltar who have been called to the Bar. This shows how under-represented women are in the profession. Signs for the future are positive as it shows that there is a 50/50 gender split of students currently studying law; the issue is to ensure that women do not have barriers placed in the way of their professional progression.
Commenting on the matter, Minister Sacramento said “A career in the law is a challenging and demanding profession, and a male dominated one. Such demands can make it more difficult for women to succeed. Donna, a real trailblazer for women in this profession, and I have been discussing an event for a long time and it has now coincided with the important centenary and I am very grateful for her generous support for this. The event sought to look back at achievements of women in the profession locally and was certainly very inspiring and uplifting following the remarkable speeches. The event concluded positively with a call to action to support women in profession.”