Focus On

Law needs feminism team proves innovative solutions can come from anyone | Manpreet Dhillon

Thursday, March 05, 2020 @ 10:48 AM | By Manpreet Dhillon


Manpreet Dhillon %>
Manpreet Dhillon
Every individual’s experiences are compelling. These experiences help mould one’s worldview and how they insert themselves in this construct. During the summer months, the all-female executive of the Calgary Women Studying Law Association (CWSLA) discussed curating an experience for our members which reflected our passion for diversity and inclusivity across law schools, the legal profession and the justice system.

During the preceding eight months, we embarked on a journey that none of us could have imagined. This is our story, and much like other fantastic endeavours, ours began on a Skype chat.

Daniella Marchand, our resident optimist, proposed the idea of partnering with the Law Needs Feminism Because (LNFB) organization to host its annual forum in Western Canada for the first time. She envisioned a forum with a platform for innovative female leaders in the legal community to share their experiences and provide practical takeaways to young lawyers and law students so they can be empowered to create solutions that fit the next generation.

Naturally the remaining executive contingent, including myself, Florence Hogg and Shuna Williams were cautiously optimistic. It was a great thought, but why would the LNFB want to partner with us? Would the faculty of law support such an initiative? After all, we are just a group of students. Despite these concerns, the ambitious and eager law student in all of us took over and we proceeded anyways.

We pitched the idea to the LNFB and dean Ian Holloway. Inspired by Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality, we shared our vision for the forum and our lofty goal of opening the forum to 300-plus members of the legal community.

We waited with bated breath, anticipating the usual “sorry, but no.” Much to our surprise, the LNFB and the faculty of law were ecstatic with our proposal. Professor Jennifer Koshan and career adviser Madeleine Natale even wrote letters of support to the LNFB! Our initial fears dissipated quickly. We’d secured the support of our partners, so all that was left to do now was execute this plan.

Naturally, the initial feeling of fear and uncertainty began to creep upon us once more. What members of the legal community would want to speak with us? What if no one shares our passion? What if we couldn’t secure the funding we needed to create this forum? Worst of all, what if no one came? Naturally, the tailspin ended with the usual “after all, we are just a bunch of students.” But, much like our adventure began, the ambitious and eager law student in all of us took over and we moved onwards, bringing additional members onto our team — Kara  Flaman, Emily Bancescu, Selwynne Hawkins and Saran Dhindsa.

What followed was overwhelming. We began sharing our vision with anyone who would listen to us. Instantly, we were connected with dozens of strong female leaders that shared our vision. We were introduced to judges, politicians, managing partners, CEOs, directors of non-profit organizations and everything in between. Everyone we met had their own story about a truly innovative idea they held to progress diversity and inclusion in our legal community and, more importantly, they connected us with the women who supported them in executing their ideas.

Our story began with four students on a Skype call with an idea on how to share their passion for gender equality. It ended with the creation of a community of strong female leaders, propped up by a network of cheerleaders silently supporting the feminist movement in the legal community.

This experience has taught us there is a growing momentum in this space, particularly in the Calgary legal community. It also taught us that there is a community of strong female leaders at its helm, with innovative solutions on how to tackle gender inequality. As we look to join the legal community, and all of the great women who are part of it, we want to carry on the tradition of supporting those with innovative ideas to ensure the next generation of strong female leaders can build solutions.

Most importantly, this experience taught us the importance of pushing aside our fears, doubts and the “we’re just a bunch of students” mantra. And replacing these with sharing our story, creating connections and “we’re a community of innovative thinkers with shared experiences” became the new mantra.

As we spend the next couple days frantically preparing to offer a memorable experience to our community, we reflect on our journey over the past eight months and we remind ourselves that we even a group of law students can bring innovative ideas to the legal sector.

About LNFB forum

The fourth annual LNFB National Forum will be held on March 6 and 7 in Calgary. The theme for the forum is Innovative Intersectionality: Making Change in the Legal Sector. LNFB aims to provide female law students and lawyers the ability to connect and discuss issues facing women in the legal sector with a focus on intersectionality and change-makers in our community. More information about the 2020 Law Needs Feminism Because forum can be found here.

Manpreet Dhillon is a second-year law student at the University of Calgary. She holds a bachelor of commerce in entrepreneurship and masters of environment and business from the University of Waterloo. Prior to entering law school, Dhillon worked in a leadership role for a multinational corporation in the energy sector.  

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