The ACT Bar Association has handed out its first scholarship for female barristers in the hope of encouraging more women to join and stay at the bar.
While the $3000 is a huge support for the inaugural recipient, Heidi Robinson, the symbolic encouragement is greater.
"I'm very appreciative of it [and] what it stands for; recognising the need for a diverse, representative bar," she said.
"To move to the bar is a very big step. There are a lot of challenges ahead. To know it's a welcoming place that respects and encourages women to join is a big factor in making the decision to move."
Ms Robinson, a barrister with the ACT Government Solicitor specialising in employment, was awarded the first MLC Advice-sponsored scholarship for women practising at the bar on Thursday.
She considered herself one of the lucky ones, having not faced any direct discrimination during her 13-year career.
But she appreciated the road ahead for greater equality in the profession.
"We've come a very long way – it's an honour and quite inspiring to be a professional woman in the territory at the moment," she said.
"But we've got a long way to go. I graduated university at a time when a lot of women were coming through, diversity was actually quite strong ... but what I've seen is a drop-off over time.
"The bar practice course I did [in September] had about 35 per cent women, which was the highest percentage of women they had ever had. So, it's getting there."
Louise Donoghue SC, the ACT's first female silk, imagined the scholarship about four years ago to address a lack of women at the bar.
"It's outrageous that women feel they cannot have a career at the bar," she said.
"I knew of a few worthy candidates that could have done with a scholarship."
She said the initiative was a small step in achieving equality in the legal profession.
"We have to keep working and working and working at it. It's a work in progress," she said.
"Taking the silk was one of the most significant events in my life. I'd like to see worthy recipients achieve it, particularly women."
ACT Chief Justice Helen Murrell, who became the first woman appointed to the position last year and presented the scholarship on Thursday, said the representation of women in the private sphere and at senior levels was still poor.
But there had been significant improvements.
"It's very good we have women in prominent positions [in the ACT], they do provide great role models, but we need to look at the figures overall to make an assessment of where we are," she said.
"I think it would be a mistake to see women as necessarily bringing different qualities than men. It's more valid to focus on the qualities you seek in a barrister and a large number of women have those qualities."