‘Girly swot’ Lady Hale offers key piece of advice to young women

Lady Hale has reportedly said her first piece of advice to young women is “don’t let the bastards grind you down”.

The Supreme Court president is said to have suggested that single-sex schooling can allow girls to get on with their education without distractions from male students who are not interested in doing their work.

Speaking at the Association of State Girls’ Schools’ annual leadership conference in London, Lady Hale – who has become known for delivering the ruling that the decision to suspend Parliament was unlawful – drew on her own experiences, saying increasing gender balance in the legal profession is an example of how times can change.

The Times Educational Supplement (TES) reported that she told the conference: “When I last talked to you, we had just doubled the number of women on the Supreme Court from one to two – a very good observation of how unreliable statistics are because doubling sounds so good, then you realise from what a small base. And then last year we went up to three – a quarter of the Supreme Court.”

She went on to say: “The story of what’s happened to law and legal education, women and diversity in law, is a good model for all the other things you want to get your young women into – the STEM subjects and technology, computing.”

“I’m sure those are all the messages you want to give to your young women – and you can say, ‘Well, look how things have changed over Lady Hale’s lifetime and they can continue to change over your lifetime, and for heaven’s sake, don’t let anybody put you off.’”

Lady Hale went on to say: “I always say, ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down.’ When young women ask me for advice, that’s number one!”

The judge is also reported to have described herself as a “girly swot” – a term used by Mr Johnson about David Cameron in a private Cabinet paper – as she told the conference that her father believed that single-sex education should be compulsory for girls and forbidden for boys.

Now, these are two inconsistent positions,” she reportedly said, “But you can work out why. Because… I found this in Cambridge – I was a girly swot and there were quite a few young men who were, similarly, girly swots: they wanted to get on with their work and their lives.”

“But sometimes supervisions were invaded by the other sort of male student, who wasn’t particularly interested in doing much in the way of work, and who concentrated on trying to put the supervisor off with silly questions, and just generally not do a lot of work.

“Now, you’ll all be familiar with that as a pattern. So, one of the reasons why it’s a good thing to be in a girls’ school is you don’t get so much of that,” she said, adding: “Of course, there are some girls like that as well, but you don’t get so much.”

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