One of the world's top judges says female judges improve the quality of judicial decisions.

And she admits, in an exclusive New Zealand interview with the Herald, it may be viewed as a "controversial" comment.

President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Justice Brenda Hale is in the country for the Law Society's Women in Law conference. She will also speak seperately on the future of family law.

The Baroness Hale of Richmond said times had changed out of all recognition during the decades she had spent in the legal profession, since graduating from the University of Cambridge in 1966.

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"I was one of only six [female] law school students," the 73-year-old said.

"At that stage the first woman High Court judge in England had only just been appointed."

However, she said courts still don't have enough women serving on the bench.

"This is the most controversial," she went on to say. "Do women make different decisions from men? To which the answer is, having women on the court improves the quality of decision making," she said.

"It improves the quality of debate, it makes certain things much more difficult to say and do, counters sub-conscious biases, we all have them ... and just from time to time, having a woman's voice on a decision makes a difference."

She explained a woman's life experience allowed for better decision-making.

"Because however egalitarian society, however much people respect one another, women do lead slightly different lives from men and that perspective in experience is a valuable one to have around decision-making generally."

She said now female law students and law academics are in greater numbers than men and it was important both halves of a population and all diversities are represented by their courts.

While not hinting as to what she would say at either conference, the former family law judge said women face the same challenges they have always faced.

"The issue that can't be ignored and ought to be an issue for men as well, but in practice is more of an issue for women, is having children," she said.

"How you plan or don't plan a life so that you can have satisfying relationships and children and nethertheless having control over your own life that a career gives you."

She said a shift in workplace views on pregnancy may be required.

"Do employers automatically think that a woman who takes any time off at all for their family is less committed to the job or do they realise she's probably more committed?

"How long does it take for someone to catch-up if they do take time away, do they ever catch up?"

Lady Hale says media coverage of court proceedings has changed significantly in the past half century. Pictured is Lady Justice at the top of the Old Bailey Law Courts in London. Photo / File
Lady Hale says media coverage of court proceedings has changed significantly in the past half century. Pictured is Lady Justice at the top of the Old Bailey Law Courts in London. Photo / File

While not wanting to comment in-depth on a series of sexual harassment scandals to hit New Zealand's top law firms this year, she said more women now feel confident enough to speak out rather than an increase in such behaviour.

Earlier this year a Law Society survey found one in five Kiwi lawyers have been sexually harassed in the workplace, including one in three female lawyers.

Justice Lady Hale also spoke of the importance of an independent and free press in law and politics but added: "It's preferable if the media behave responsibly and sensibly and try to be constructive rather than just always being destructive."

Journalists were banned from the Women in Law Summit in Auckland on Tuesday, where heads of law firms were to discuss sexual harassment in the profession.

The event organisers reportedly said delegates and speakers raised concerns over what would be reported in the media.