It has been a quarter of a century. In 1990 a group of women in the legal profession, including Alison Maclennan, QC, brought the issue of gender bias to the attention of the Law Society. A resolution passed by members at the annual general meeting in June 1990 resulted in a groundbreaking report, “Gender Equality in the Justice System,” completed and tabled in the summer of 1992. It documented the presence and extent of gender inequality in all areas and aspects of our legal and justice systems, including the legal profession. It contained approximately 300 recommendations to assist in directing us toward the goal of gender equality.
The Justicia initiative was created by the Benchers to support the retention of women in the profession and encourage law firms to adopt best practices regarding women lawyers. The first phase of the project has met with tremendous success and I urge everyone to read the report. Seventeen law firms committed to developing and implementing best practices to facilitate the retention and advancement of women in private practice. Diversity officers from these seventeen firms developed recommendations in six areas:
• Improving parental leave policies;
• Enhancing flexible work arrangements;
• Tracking gender demographics;
• Adopting initiatives to foster women’s networking and business development;
• Promoting leadership skills for women; and
• Developing paths to partnership initiatives.
It is truly a significant piece of work and I would like to thank some of the participants who worked so hard in bringing this matters to fruition. They are:
Wendy Baker, QC; Diane Bell, QC; Melanie Bradley; Nicole Byres, QC; Carol Chestnut; Emily Galer; Kent Kufeldt; Joanne Kuroyama; Judith Macfarlane; Bill Maclagan, QC; Karen MacMillan; Rebecca Morse; Jennifer McNaught; Barbara Norell; Helena Plecko; Mary Ruhl; Marion Shaw; Jennifer Vermiere; Lisa Vogt, QC; Christine York; Jean Yuen; and Kareen Zimmer.
I not only extend our thanks to the lawyers who devoted their time and energy to this project, but also the law firms that supported this endeavour:
Harper Grey, Stikeman Elliott, Alexander Holburn Beaudin & Lang, Clark Wilson, McCarthy Tétrault, Dentons, Boughton, Blakes, Gowlings, McMillan, Fasken Martineau, Lawson Lundell, Bull Housser & Tupper, DLA Piper, Borden Ladner Gervais, Miller Thomson, and Farris.
I would also like to recognize the contributions to this project made by Linda Robertson of the CBA Women Lawyers Forum, and Deborah Taylor of the CBA BC Women Lawyers Forum.
The following Justicia best practice guides were endorsed by the Benchers in January 2016, and are available on the Law Society website:
- Career Advancement into Partnership: Associate Guide
- A Guide to Business Development for Women Lawyers
- Executive Summary of Women’s Leadership in the Legal Profession
- Demographic data collection
I applaud these efforts and recognize the progress we have made over the last 25 years. Much work still needs to be done and we will continue to enthusiastically support these efforts. Maria Morellato, QC, chair of the Equity and Diversity Committee will lead this project on to the next phase.