Pathways to Power series named Outstanding Member Program by North American women’s bar association

  • May 08, 2020

The Women Lawyers Forum Pathways to Power series has inspired women for more than five years. Now, the flagship professional development program has gained international recognition, as the CBA-WLF is the recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Member Program Award by the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations (NCWBA).

“The wonderful thing about the kind of recognition that the NCWBA is providing is that it allows women's bar associations across North America to learn about the program and hopefully take it as something that they can then replicate,” says Sabrina Bandali, Chair of the WLF National Section and formerly the chair of WLF-Ontario when Pathways to Power launched.

Pathways to Power is designed to shatter glass ceilings by demystifying and showcasing the journeys of women in traditionally male-dominated or difficult-to-reach career paths. Launched in 2015, it helps women to claim their space in the legal profession and embrace the idea that women can and should seek positions of power.

“What's very unique about the Pathways to Power program is that it's explicitly focused on the how to – not why it's important and not the barriers. It is literally how you do it, and we would have questions coming in from participants that I have not heard asked in other fora on similar topics,” says Bandali.

The series started with a three-part program – women on the bench, women in politics and women in the boardroom. Since its launch, Pathways to Power has hosted sessions on topics such as legal technology, associates, firm founders, general counsel, international law and female lawyers in non-law careers. Women in investment is the planned topic for the next session in the series.

“It's been room after room full of passionate engaged participants, listening to incredibly inspiring women in areas that many of us perceived as difficult or often-uncharted territory or where women are quite often under-represented,” says Richa Sandill, Chair of the OBA Women Lawyers’ Forum and a member of the CBA-WLF executive.

The WLF is now working on a toolkit about how to develop the program, to be published online later this year.

Each program takes the format of a moderated panel discussion in which 3 to 4 prominent panelists candidly explore their career paths, gender-based barriers that they may have faced, strategies to overcome such barriers, and practical tips for what junior, mid-career or senior lawyers can do to chart similar success.

“It's had a direct impact on my views of the profession and what I'm able to do as a woman lawyer,” says Sandill. “I know it's done the same for many, many of our participants in the program.”

Initiated in 2008, the NCWBA Outstanding Member Program Award recognizes innovative projects, programs and services for members or the bar association itself. This was the CBA-WLF’s first submission to the NCWBA awards program. The award will be presented in a virtual presentation during the National Women’s Bar Leadership Summit on July 31.

The NCWBA describes itself as an association of women’s bar associations, representing approximately 35,000 women lawyers. The CBA-WLF is the only non-U.S.-based member.