The Mapping Her Path project (MHP), is a three-year project (2015-2018) created to learn about, collaborate on and pilot initiatives that promote the retention and advancement of women lawyers in BC. Funded by Status of Women Canada, the project aims to explore barriers faced by women in the legal profession and considers policies and programs that can be implemented in BC.
In BC, women have been entering the legal profession in numbers equal to or greater than men for more than a decade. Yet women represent only about 34% of all practising lawyers in the province and only about 29% of lawyers in full-time private practice. This under representation of women in private practice is highlighted by the disproportionate rate at which women leave within 5 years of practicing. Of all women called to the bar in 2003, only 66% retained practising status in 2008 compared with 80% of men called in the same year.
While the experience of individual firms may vary, in general women are not reaching partnership positions within firms at the same rate as male colleges. Canadian and US statistics indicate a range in the proportion of women partners averaging between16% of equity partners to about 20% of partners in large and medium size firms.
What We Are Doing
Initially, MHP conducted an online survey that was completed by 400 respondents between November 1 and December 15, 2015. To view the survey findings, see our Mapping Her Path Needs Assessment Report.
Of the 119 respondents who left private practice, 85 (71%) described aspects of private practice that were not compatible with desired work-life balance, and 74 (61%) described the workplace environment as a contributing factor to their decision. 239 (60%) of respondents shared stories of situations where they believe gender played a role at work, leading to negative treatment, harassment, limited options or untenable choices.
According to a study done by the Law Society of Alberta, 92% of the women and 69% of the men surveyed thought that there was some form of bias or discrimination against women in the profession. With the data collected in the survey, existing research and an advisory committee MHP narrowed its focus to develop pilot projects in five priority areas. MHP is undertaking these pilots over the remainder of the project.
Five priority areas:
This Justice Education Society project will be conducted with important collaboration from the Law Society of BC and the BC Branch of the CBA, with the involvement of the Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia and the Faculty of Law, University of Victoria.
This project has been funded by the Status of Women Canada.