Ways to Engage

  • June 25, 2020

Halfway through the year, and 2020 has been a bumpy road so far. The Women Lawyers Forum stands in solidarity with everyone calling out systemic racism and the continued violent oppression of black lives. The discrimination and violence experienced by Indigenous people and racialized people must stop. We recognize that all of us have work to do to ensure that we are actively anti-racist, and that we have to un-learn and disrupt the implicit biases that shape how we encounter and treat each other.

We are continuing with our work pursuing gender equity, particularly within the legal profession. After weeks of confinement and COVID-19 restrictions, Canadians are carefully reopening businesses and exploring what our new normal might be. We are coming to grips with what the pandemic means for women, who are expected to disproportionately experience economic hardship. The WLF is working on programming and initiatives to address the "shecession" and welcome thoughts and suggestions from our members.

Inclusive Gowning Policies

Courts across the country are continuing to respond to letters written by the national and branch executives asking courts to introduce more inclusive gowning policies, explicitly permitting lawyers to modify their court attire to accommodate pregnancy, medical condition, disability or other circumstances.

While many courts have updated or are in the process of updating their gowning directives, we need your help to continue our advocacy. Join in our efforts by completing this brief survey that asks about your experiences.

Celebrating Pathways to Power – Winner of the NCWBA Annual Award

The Ontario branch Pathways to Power program has gained international recognition by winning the U.S. National Conference of Women’s Bar Association’s 2020 Outstanding Member Program award! Pathways to Power has been a flagship program in Ontario, designed to shatter glass ceilings by demystifying and exploring the journeys of women in traditionally male-dominated or difficult-to-reach career paths. Since its launch, Pathways to Power has hosted sessions highlighting the paths taken by women on the bench, in politics, in the boardroom, law firm founders, general counsel, in legal tech and in international law. The Ontario WLF and national executive are collaborating on issuing a toolkit to allow women’s bar associations to replicate the success of the Pathways to Power model.

Madam Justice Online Gallery

The new Madam Justice gallery is online! Highlighting and celebrating the diversity of Canadian women judges, the gallery showcases the stories and insights of women judges from across the country.

The gallery features our first profiles of Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie (interviewed by Grace Cleveland), Judge Ronda van Hoek (interviewed by Emily MacDonald), and Justice Palbinder Kaur Shergill (interviewed by Kamaljit Kaur Lehal).

We are continuing to add profiles in the coming months and welcome your thoughts on Canadian judges who should be featured. Any WLF member may volunteer to interview judges to be featured; email us to express your interest.

Writing Her In – Student Essay Competition

Our inaugural Writing Her In essay competition received 17 excellent submissions. The selection committee had the difficult task of selecting the winning paper and are delighted to recognize Samantha Peters' paper, "Making Social Context Education Mandatory: Why Cultural Competency Should Matter in the Courtroom." Ms. Peters has won the $500 cash prize, and her essay is now published by the WLF online.

Pay Equity and Compensation

In 2018, the WLF received funding from the Law for the Future Fund to conduct a study seeking information about compensation decisions relating to partners in large law firms. The Final Report describes what we learned about compensation decision-making and the involvement of women in compensation decisions and will be available on the CBA-WLF website this summer.

The Globe and Mail recently wrote about the results of the CCCA’s survey of in-house counsel, which showed an 11% gap between women and their male counterparts.

We need better data in Canada about gender pay gaps in the legal profession. We also need to open a conversation within the legal profession about pay equity and bring more lawyers together to develop solutions. The WLF is planning a virtual national roundtable on pay equity in the profession in early 2021 – stay tuned!

Get Involved

Building our community across Canada and supporting all our members takes effort and we cannot succeed without YOU! Join our Section, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn! Check our member articles to stay current with issues affecting women lawyers across Canada.

Sabrina A. Bandali
Chair of WLF