Happy International Women’s Day. Today we celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. In the legal profession, we have much to celebrate. Women have come a long way since 1916, when Isabel Maclean Hunt became the first woman in Manitoba to receive an LL.B. Yet there remains much work to do.
While roughly half of all students entering common law schools in Canada have been female since the 1990’s, women remain under-represented among the ranks of equity partners in private firms and in senior management roles. This under-representation is more acute for racialized women and those from other historically marginalized groups. The gender pay gap persists in the legal profession as documented in recent studies including the report on Pay Equity in the Legal Profession, co-authored by Erin C. Cowling and the Women Lawyers Forum Pay Equity Committee and in the In-House Counsel Compensation & Career Survey, conducted by The Counsel Network and the CCCA.
The report on Pay Equity in the Legal Profession identified a series of challenges including:
A lack of transparency and therefore accountability for ensuring fair and equitable compensation
Firms expect women of child-bearing age to take maternity leave so give them fewer opportunities
Inequitable distribution of files and better business development opportunities being offered to male associates, leading to faster career progression, earlier partnership and higher pay, and
A widespread impression among female lawyers that they were expected to take on volunteer administrative work which is not valued by the firm while the same expectations are not placed on men
Read about the discussions that took place and the recommendations that resulted from the Roundtable on the Retention of Women in the Legal Profession in Manitoba, which included close to 100 women lawyers. The event was organized by the Canadian Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges, along with the Law Society of Manitoba and the Manitoba Bar Association.
Having women from diverse backgrounds at the decision making table in law firms, government legal departments and corporate boardrooms leads to higher performance and better results across the board. We all benefit when we #EmbraceEquity.
The Law Society’s Equity Officer is available to speak with you privately or make a presentation about practical steps you can take to embrace equity, diversity and inclusion in your workplace.