Jubilate! The Law Society of Scotland may fairly be said to have come of age, with the gratifying advent of a trio of women at its head.
As recently as 40 or 50 years ago, discrimination against women in many professions, especially legal and ecclesiastical, was endemic, not least in Edinburgh. Some shameful examples follow.
In the 1950s and 1960s it was not unusual for as few as three women to graduate in law in any one year at the University of Edinburgh. A gold medal-winning female fellow student was denied employment in the Scots legal profession, and went to work for a toilet soap company in London. Another female student was turned down by Marks & Spencer because she declined to undertake not to have children if she ever married – only married women had children in those days! Preposterously, in this case the interviewer herself was female.
When I was an indentured law apprentice, my masters addressed their female employees as “Missy”, and demanded that they work overtime without pay on Friday evenings. When I gave a job to my very first employee, I was contacted by a (female) officer of the local labour exchange who urged me to reconsider because the employee in question was “an unmarried mother”. When I joined the Scots bar, all the female advocates there had ever been were alive and in practice – all two of them!
The world is a better place than when I started out in the law.George Lawrence Allen, Edinburgh