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Women in law: Where are we now? | Jasmine Daya

Thursday, March 18, 2021 @ 11:44 AM | By Jasmine Daya


Jasmine Daya %>
Jasmine Daya
On March 8, we celebrated International Women’s Day to commemorate women’s achievements. Over the years, I have become more appreciative of this day, perhaps as I gain a better understanding of what it means to be a lawyer, wife and mother, among my many other roles. This year, I fear my gender has regressed within the practice of law.

There are ample articles and statistics from developed countries around the world that demonstrate the negative impact that the pandemic has had on the advancement of women. As a female, I have felt the crushing toll of the issues created by the pandemic and have witnessed my friends and colleagues endure similar issues. A 2020 McKinsey and Company report found that the pandemic has set women in America back by half a decade and a third of women have considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their role at work. I believe a similar situation exists north of the border.

The pandemic was declared about one year ago and since then, we have learned how to adapt to working from home while playing mother and teacher to our children as they tackle virtual learning, as well as tidying the never-ending mess created by everyone at home. We have also not been able to enjoy our usual “outlets” such as socializing, travelling, restaurants, certain hobbies, and on and on.

During this time, many women have shouldered additional responsibilities with childcare and household chores. I am not faulting anyone; it’s just the situation that has occurred. This has meant that many women have either scaled back their work, have stopped working or are considering leaving the workforce.

Some women have found working from home beneficial as they have gained extra time from not having to commute to work and are able to multitask at home by balancing duties of their employment and household chores, which again has saved time. I do not believe that the aforementioned “some” women, is the “majority” of women. 

In certain workplaces and for certain people, a work from home model or a hybrid model, which is a combination of working from home and working from the office, will likely be adopted post-pandemic due to mutual benefits derived by both the employee and employer; however, there are additional stressors as a result of the pandemic that have caused women to be negatively impacted by these models at the present time.

Clara Brett Martin had to request permission from the Law Society of Upper Canada just to study law, sit the exams and article. Her petition was initially rejected as a female was not believed to be permitted to practise law. After contentious debate, it was decided that “people” in the Law Society Statute would include women.

In 1899, Martin was the first female to receive an LL.B. degree in Canada. I am unsure as to how Martin endured the unrelenting social pressure that she must have encountered as a result of her chosen profession and while maintaining a career in law but she prevailed.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated during her first oral arguments before the Supreme Court in 1973, “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our bretheren is that they take their feet off our necks.” She advocated for gender equality and women’s rights until she passed away on Sept. 18, 2020, at 87 years of age.

To the female members of the bar, if you are considering leaving the practice of law, please reconsider. We have come this far. We need you and generations to come need you. Remember the aspects of practising law that you love. Those days will return but not if you give it up now.

With our never-ending balancing act and ongoing desire to please everyone, I know at times it may feel like the walls are closing in, making every breath more difficult; however, with time, effort, support and perspective, that moment in time passes. That moment in time is but one moment of an entire career. The many incredible people within our profession are here for you and so am I.

Jasmine Daya is managing lawyer at Jasmine Daya & Co., a personal injury firm that specializes in club assaults, cyberbullying, claims involving minors and elder abuse. She can be reached at jasmine@jdlawyers.ca.

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