Raising the Bar
: Gender and the careers of women barristers in Northern Ireland

  • Leah Treanor

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the impact of gender on the careers of women operating within an under-explored professional context: the barrister profession in Northern Ireland. The challenges facing women in the solicitor profession and the judiciary are well rehearsed. However, there is a comparative lack of research considering the particular context of the barrister profession, particularly in Northern Ireland. Moreover, this extant research considering gender and the legal profession, as with similar research in other professional contexts, tends to employ gender as a variable to facilitate comparison. This thesis will depart from this trend, instead employing gender as a lens of analysis within a critical feminist framework. Through so doing, this research is able to transcend the individual woman as a unit of analysis and illuminate the effect of professional context.

This thesis illustrates how gender practices serve to produce and maintain gendered horizontal and vertical segregation within the barrister profession in Northern Ireland. The female subjugation engendered by these gendered practices, in turn, influences individual identity and positioning, with tangible outcomes for women in terms of their behaviours, their interactions with colleagues and the strategies they employ in navigating this professional context. As a result, women practising at the Bar of Northern Ireland remain at a disadvantage in terms of their opportunities to access certain practice specialisms and, potentially, to progress their careers, whether through taking Silk or ascending to the Bench.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorThérèse Murphy (Supervisor) & Christopher McCrudden (Supervisor)


  • Gender
  • barristers
  • Northern Ireland
  • legal profession
  • careers

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