Lawyers have accused the Solicitors Regulation Authority of abandoning women after it was shown to have altered its Diversity Questionnaires to ask respondents to state their "gender identity" instead of their biological sex.

The SRA requires all regulated firms to record and report diversity data every two years by asking their staff to fill in its survey, with the intention of promoting social mobility and diversity in the profession.

Previously, the survey had sought to capture respondents' biological sex, but for its 2017 and 2019 Diversity Questionnaires, it asked instead, "Which gender do you identify with?". A follow-up question to capture specific data about transgender people asked, "Do you consider your gender identity to be different from your registered sex at birth?"

survey

Lawyers on social media suggested that the omission of a specific question asking the binary sex of respondents meant that the SRA was not collecting effective data on women in the profession. They also argued that ‘gender identity’ was a regressive social construct which relied on people fitting into female and male stereotypes, and should either not have been used, or should have included a ‘none’ option. Referring to the Equality Act 2010, Emily Watson, a family lawyer, asked on Twitter, "Why does your diversity and equality questionnaire not monitor the protected characteristic of sex? Only one of the protected characteristics left out - are you not monitoring sex discrimination?"

Audrey Ludwig, the director of Suffolk Law Centre, asked, "If you do not keep accurate equality monitoring data how can you analyse trends on issues like pay gap and sex discrimination/incidents of harassment on grounds of sex? Did you do equality impact assessment of this decision?"

The SRA replied on Twitter, “it was felt that our previous approach, asking a binary question about biological sex, was not inclusive".


ratio

Ratio'd.


In response to further demands to explain its decision, the SRA said that in 2017, “after discussion & feedback on the issue from a number of groups and a short survey on social media” it changed the format of its survey to refer to gender identity, "which gave everyone an opportunity to answer".

A spokesman for the SRA admitted that the response to the online survey had been "limited", but said the 86 answers it received "helped inform our views on the best approach forward." The regulator declined to disclose which organisations it consulted about the changes. However, its website promotes the trans-child charity Mermaids and LGBT charity Stonewall, which advocates that anyone born male who identifies as a women, is a woman. The SRA confirmed it pays Stonewall £3,000 a year for training on LGBT inclusion and to promote itself as a 'Stonewall Diversity Champion'.

Lawyers and feminists asked why the SRA didn't ask about both sex and gender. "Sex is legally a protected characteristic", wrote Watson, "so you can't just replace it to be 'inclusive'. If you want to ask about GI, go for it - but as well as sex not instead. Many responses to your survey as is will give you no useful information about sex discrimination". Caroline Criado Perez, the author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, agreed, tweeting, "I understand why orgs do this, they mean well, but less data is never the answer. Sex AND gender".


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A regulator yesterday.


The SRA told RollOnFriday that as well as wanting to be inclusive, it had not asked people for their sex "to avoid confusion" and "to help to monitor and promote gender equality in the profession". In Scotland, Stonewall objected to proposals for separate sex and gender questions in the Scottish census because it said doing so "would likely sit uncomfortably with trans respondents”. The SRA declined to clarify whether that was also one of its considerations.

RollOnFriday uncovered evidence that the changes have already resulted in the SRA making misleading statements about sex equality in the profession. When it released the results of its 2017 questionnaire, the SRA claimed that "diversity in the sector continues to improve" on the basis that "women make up 48% of all lawyers in law firms” compared to “47% of the UK workforce". However, it did not state that its definition of women included trans women. In addition, the 47% figure for the UK workforce was produced by the Office of National Statistics which, unlike the SRA, did not collect data based on 'gender identity'. Because 2% of the lawyers responding to the SRA's 2017 questionnaire identified as transgender, potentially only 46% of SRA respondents comprised biological women. As such, there was potentially a smaller percentage of biological women in the legal profession than in the UK workforce, not greater as many may have assumed the SRA to have claimed.

One female solicitor who asked to remain anonymous said the SRA's approach was "weirdly cavalier".

Another solicitor who also declined to be identified said, "Sex discrimination hasn't disappeared even if the SRA thinks it's old hat. On a charitable interpretation, it waved through this nonsense because it sounded progressive, and simply didn’t think about the impact on women of redefining them. Hypothetically, the profession could be 100% male and the SRA would report with a straight face that it was 60% female. It's disturbing that the regulator so casually abdicated its responsibility to monitor female lawyers' situation."

Watson told RollOnFriday, "The response from the SRA is wholly inadequate. It fails to justify why they have apparently reworded statute in the name of ‘inclusion’ and in so doing have effectively excluded a large number of women (judging by the response to my tweet) who don't want to have to accept an oppressive gender identity in order to let the SRA know that they are female."

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Progressive managing partner 26 April 19 08:40

Totally disagree with the criticism. This is Wonderful. I run a small, all-male firm and was worried about having to hire women. They cause problems. Especially when they get pregnant! Now I can tell half my guys to identify as women. Hey presto, a great diversity score and added kudos because I’m clearly trans friendly. Question for sra: all my staff are white. Can some of them identity as BAME? Would really help me out.

TLDR 26 April 19 09:02

What makes some people think they are in the wrong sex of body? For me being a man just flows from the fact I’m in a male body. I don’t ‘feel’ one way or the other. If I was in a woman’s body I’m certain I’d ‘feel’ like a woman, but only because I was in that body. My brain feels...neutral, if I shave off certain sex-specific behaviours caused, I think, by my biology and the expectations associated with being a man which have been trained into my. How much has this session cost me?

FmrCityLawFirmWorker 26 April 19 09:09

Resisting the temptation for SRA bashing, can I thank RoF for this piece which explains the problems with data interpretation in this survey. Stats are too often bandied around as "proof" of a position and this story reminds us that the data is only as good as the questions asked, the responses received and the interpretation applied. Thanks!

Anonymous 26 April 19 09:10

I identify with men, women and children, but that's got bugger all to do with what my gender is.

Hey Nonny Nonny 26 April 19 09:36

Coming from a provincial bronze medallion firm, I honestly have no idea what all this is about.  But trying to get my head around this, if I were a trans-woman and everyone at the firm thought that I was a woman, surely they could discriminate against me on the basis that they think that I'm a woman and they have an inbuilt prejudice that women are no good at law or whatever.  I'm completely open to being shouted down on this one - open to learning! 

Anonymous 26 April 19 10:00

The follow-up question would clearly capture data on birth sex where different from gender identity which can be cross-referenced to the gender question to find stats on both cis and trans people. The survey actually captures more accurate data.  I doubt I am the only one who finds the motives of its critics to be little more than a distasteful facade for those intent on stirring up transphobic hysteria.   

Wimmin 26 April 19 10:06

First Q - who the hell completes these surveys? As with the above poster, data and stats are meaningless and open to abuse without the full context. Instead of percentage, I’d like to know the total number of replies and if they can ensure the SRA doesn’t just make it up (like it does everything else)

Anon 26 April 19 10:29

Hey Nonny Nonny, the same logic applies to trans-women who don't pass as women or who are not out of the closet. The whole office thinks they are a man and so despite self-identifying as a woman, they don't actually experience the sex discrimination. At the same time i believe women are often discriminated against because they are assumed to be able to get pregnant and go on maternity leave. A trans-woman is unlikely to get pregnant.  

Anonymous 26 April 19 11:07

I disagree that seeking to discuss whether the definition of woman should be changed to include people born with penises is ‘stirring up transphobic hysteria’. That’s a big accusation that threatens to silence what is surely a valid topic for debate.

Gobblepig 26 April 19 11:08

Someone's always going to be faux-offended. Perhaps we should just stop giving these idiots air-time.

Anonymous 26 April 19 11:16

It makes me so angry how stupid/obtuse the sra is being. How is it not ‘inclusive’ to ask for people’s sex? Even trans people are one or the other.  Also, to ‘avoid confusion’?  They are shitting themselves aren’t they. Anyone reading this knows it’s a nonsense. 

Anonymous 26 April 19 11:29

‘The follow-up question would clearly capture data on birth sex where different from gender identity which can be cross-referenced to the gender question to find stats on both cis and trans people. The survey actually captures more accurate data.’ you are wrong. The follow up question does not differentiate between who was once a woman and who was once a man. If it did, you could I suppose subtract the number of people who said they were a man at birth from the number who identify as women, to establish the number of biological women.  But it doesn’t.  Your failure to appreciate that shows you either: -have poor analytical skills, which is entirely forgiveable; -are deliberately obfuscating so you can leap to emotive accusations, which is more distasteful; or - truly believe that not being able to determine the number of actual biological women is immaterial, and that the current format genuinely does capture more useful, ‘accurate’ data -  in which case some might validly accuse you of misogyny.

a cis woman 26 April 19 11:51

Given the existence of the followup question, the survey clearly records assigned sex as well.  Also, I doubt there are enough trans men and women in the profession to skew the data.  Hard to see this as anything other than transphobia, like those people who pretend to be offended by the term 'cis'.

A cis woman 26 April 19 11:59

Also - if you do think that transwomen are not really women, surely this survey serves your purposes better than the old one.  This surgery monitors the number of people living as women who were also born female.  If you only ask about sex, I imagine most people would answer with their current gender identity, so cis and trans women will be lumped together, with no way of knowing the proportions of each.

a non knee mouse 26 April 19 12:26

To the poster who said "Given the existence of the followup question, the survey clearly records assigned sex as well.  Also, I doubt there are enough trans men and women in the profession to skew the data.  Hard to see this as anything other than transphobia, like those people who pretend to be offended by the term 'cis'." Read the very clear explanatory comment made just before yours. Or my comment below: 1) The survey does not record assigned/biological sex;  it is not possible to determine how many biological women (or men) answered the survey.  2) It is not transphobic to point out that data regarding cis women and cis men is missing.  3) It is not transphobic to have the view, as I do, that it should be included. 4) The inclusion of such data collection in the survey would have no impact on trans people and therefore is also not transphobic.  - In light of the above, please tell me how the article is transphobic?  - You also say you doubt there are enough trans people in the profession to skew the data.  Just one trans person answering skews the data (in fact the ROF author above clearly shows how the data has been skewed - I suggest you read the article in full).   The SRA's bizarre omission is needless and it's an example of a general trend that is likely to become more common in such surveys and the one (traditionally oppressed) group of people said omissions could affect negatively is cis women. I am all for trans-inclusivity.  I am also all for including cis-women (&men) too.  It is a complete no-brainer that biological/assigned sex of each person should be logged along with gender.

Anonymous 26 April 19 12:31

RoF as willing platform in the spread transphobic disinformation and bigotry non-shocka.

Anonymous 26 April 19 13:10

@a non knee mouse Thank you, I read the other comments and they don't change my view.  Your and the previous poster's point comes down to this -  'The follow up question does not differentiate between who was once a woman and who was once a man.'  This is a trivial objection - clearly it's very easy for the SRA to collate the data from both questions and find out the numbers of male and female gender identifying people who answer yes to the followup question, ie the numbers of trans men and trans women.

Anonymous 26 April 19 13:12

'Bigotry non-shocka' like promoting Hoglove's trans training? https://www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/hogan-lovells-launches-gender-transitioning-training-staff Or Clifford Chance's gender X case? https://www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/clifford-chance-court-fight-genderless Or celebrating LGBT achievements in law? https://www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/wiggin-office-manager-crowned-mr-gay-england https://www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/law-firms-dominate-lgbt-awards Or reporting on homophobia? https://www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/homophobic-barristers-huge-problem-says-study https://www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/exclusive-dla-piper-staffer-jailed-brutal-homophobic-attack Or highlighting LGBT acceptance at firms? https://www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/pinsent-masons-most-gay-friendly-firm https://www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/clifford-chance-launches-scheme-support-lgbt-staff

Lydia 26 April 19 13:12

The SRA should change this for next year so that women are not wiped out of their data collection in this appalling manner. At this rate they could say women hold 50% of equity partnerships if they include transwomen in that. They need to collect sex details for legal reasons and to ensure data on women (and men) is accurate. By all means gather trans type data as well.

Anonymous 26 April 19 13:32

I identify myself as an ever-changing gender-fluid snowman with butterfly wings.   Why is this not an option in the survey? I am deeply offended. We should legislate to protect the rights of ever-changing gender-fluid snowmen with butterfly wings!

Anonymous 26 April 19 14:06

'clearly it's very easy for the SRA to collate the data from both questions and find out the numbers of male and female gender identifying people who answer yes to the followup question, ie the numbers of trans men and trans women.'         Point taken, it would be possible, assuming biological women agreed their 'gender identity' was 'woman' - I think most would, we're not all up on the gender critical movement - and ticked that box. But it's not 'very easy' , because the survey is not constructed to facilitate identification of what I regard as women - biological women - and that's borne out by the fact the SRA lumped together women and trans women in their results. The survey's geared to erase/minimise biological sex. Now, that's my real point. I regard biological sex as the determinant of whether one is a man or a women. You, I suspect, would regard that assertion as wrong - maybe also, incorrectly I think, transphobic. I don't know how to bridge that gap between us. You insist two male-bodied transwomen in a relationship with one another are lesbians, I insist that's doublespeak so wild Orwell deleted if from the first draft.

Anonymous 26 April 19 15:00

The malice, self absorption and wilfull stupidity of people on this thread claiming data gathering in this way "erases" women is both breathtaking and sickening.  Time for a cash donation to Stonewall.  They clearly have a long way to go. 

Gobblepig 26 April 19 15:06

I am off to woke my senior partner and tell him that I hereby self-identify as a partner of the firm and that if he denies me my share of the equity he is discriminating against me and a gammon or something .

Anonymous 26 April 19 15:20

"The malice, self absorption and wilfull stupidity of people on this thread claiming data gathering in this way "erases" women" Interestingly you don't say the claims are wrong, or explain why. Instead you jump straight to pearl-clutching. Easy mistake. "is both breathtaking and sickening."  I'm sure, but don't be sick at the same time as taking a breath - messy. "Time for a cash donation to Stonewall."   Arg, a dagger to mine heart. "They clearly have a long way to go."  We agree on something.

Charlie 26 April 19 18:21

Astonishing that the SRA should publicly state that a binary sex question (which we've collected data on in every industry and sphere of public life worldwide for decades) would be too confusing. As it stands, I can't answer either question - I neither identify as a woman nor do I accept gender, that straitjacket that society likes to force all of us into based on our sex. And I don't have a gender identity, so asking me whether my gender identity matches my sex is nonsense. I am a woman because I was born female and survived to adulthood. Nothing more, nothing less. Why can't the SRA ask under 3) What is your sex? Options: male, female, prefer not to say and under 4) ask Do you identify as trans? Options: yes, no, prefer not to say. I'd tick female and no. And the SRA would have usable data to measure sex discrimination, representation and all that stuff that accurately reflects the workforce in line with best practice in data gathering. But given that the protected characteristic of sex is the only one they have removed from their survey, it seems obvious that accurately reflecting the female workforce and whatever issues it may face is not on the agenda here.  Mindblowing though that a regulator of the legal profession should not be ashamed of flaunting the law so blatantly. Even defending their idiocy with an air of condescension and a hint of an accusatory "bigot" in the tone of their replies.  

MassiveFuckwit 26 April 19 20:00

"I am a woman because I was born female and survived to adulthood."

Nah. You're a woman because you self-identify as a woman.

Sole Practitioner Requested By The SRA To Become > Diverse 27 April 19 14:56

It rather reminds me of SRA correspondence with me after I made reference in writing to an individual's self-identity as being 'on the spectrum'. The SRA wrote to me citing my 'discrimination against someone with a DISABILITY'. Apparently, the National Autism Society received no response to their subsequent offer to the SRA to undertake a training session for them . . .           

Anon 29 April 19 08:57

Och, why can't we all just get along? If you identify as trans woman/man/non-binary/whatever just state it and if you are woman/man/non-binary/whatever just say so. but I guess if you say you are then you are somehow (because you are) denying someone else is because they are not* but because they identify as such they are but they are not so we must not say that we are because they are not. It is all becoming so tiresome every time everyone gets their knickers/boxers/briefs/thongs/whatever in a twist. 

Anonymous 29 April 19 10:11

Hey Nonny Nonny, the problem is that if someone climbs the ranks as a male, reaches equity and then self-identifies as a woman it skews the stats - on women at the higher echelons, the pay gap, etc.  Most discrimination women face relates to biological reality - the fact that they might get pregnant.  That's not an issue for transwomen. But the real issue is that this is a diversity survey and they have just decided to ditch collecting data about an Equality Act protected characteristic in order to appear "woke".  It's completely unacceptable.

RIP Stonewall 29 April 19 16:52

“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

Anonymous 01 May 19 09:00

The lengths they’ve gone to mollify their transgender activist advisors, by pretending there might not be such a thing as ‘sex’, and/or to enable the fiction that trans people have somehow, impossibly, changed sex, is concerning. They should reflect reality and ask ‘What is your sex? Male/Female’ and then ‘What is your gender identity? Male/Female/Other/None’. The fact they’re too scared/ignorant/cowed/indoctrinated to do this is worrying. 

T Pog 09 May 19 15:49

I have made a complaint to the SRA and would ask that anyone who is dismayed about the erasure of sex as a significant marker of diversity, does so.  This virtue signaling harms women - wittily illustrated by some of the comments above. Recently CreditSuisse awarded "Business Woman of the Year" to part- time cross dresser (and full time male senior manager) Pip Bunce. Sex is data, gender is performance.  Woman is not a costume, nor is it is a feeling. It's a biological reality that can carry real disadvantages at work (as many female barristers disclosed in the media, recently). I've had a male manager boast he's never had a day off work - I have, when I started having a miscarriage in the office loos and needed a blood transfusion.  Self ID out of that. I could list several more reasons why it's sexist and incompetent of the SRA to make what they bafflingly call "sex at birth" (what other kind of sex is there?) subordinate and collateral to the highly contested concept of gender ID, rather than acknowledge it's an independent, material reality (and women are a protected class on the basis of their sex under the Equality Act), but surely it's obvious? Ask a fashionable question on gender ID if you wish, but not at the expense of sex.  SRA's format is also at odds with that recommended by the ONS, which says that no one should have to answer a question on gender ID if they don't want to, and the census sex question should remain unchanged. Pity SRA didn't check that.