NZBA president to focus on diversity, ending ‘macho’ culture

by Sol Dolor28 Nov 2018

The new president of the country’s peak body for barristers has identified diversity and ending “macho” culture as two key focuses for her term.

Kate Davenport QC, who recently commenced in her role as president of the New Zealand Bar Association (NZBA), said that macho behaviour by both men and women has had its day in the profession.

“Recently the profession has commissioned and published comprehensive reports on harassment and gender imbalances in the legal profession. The picture remains grim for women and those of ethnically diverse backgrounds. There is no question of the need for change in order to achieve better outcomes for these groups. A culture change, eliminating macho behaviour and replacing it with kindness and respect, is well overdue,” she said.

Davenport, just the second woman to lead the NZBA, said that she is often appalled at how lawyers write and talk to each other.

“Being nice to each other doesn’t mean we will be doing a poor job as lawyers or somehow not doing the best for our clients. Rudeness and aggressive behaviour don’t help our clients, our colleagues or the profession as a whole. Further it clearly damages individuals. During my presidency I would like to see greater and faster change in this area,” she said.

The new president also said that a profession that embraces diversity is needed.

“What we don’t need is women or those of ethnically diverse [backgrounds] feeling as though they have to adopt the worst attributes of some others in the profession in order to succeed,” she said.

She stressed that attitudes have pushed young women from the profession after only a few years in practice.

“We certainly don’t need attitudes and behaviours from previous centuries, holding us back when we have a new world of technology and diversity to take us forward,” she said.

Kate Davenport QC