When the Law Society of Ontario released its annual report last month, it included disappointing, but unsurprising, statistics about gender parity in the profession, particularly at the partner level.
Despite the fact that lawyers from across the profession and organizations, like the Law Society of Ontario and the Ontario Bar Association, have put forward significant efforts to help advance equality of all kinds in the profession in recent years, our progress remains slow-moving.
For a challenge as great as advancing gender equality, it would be naïve to think that we could solve the issue with just a few initiatives. It requires time. It takes the effort of many. And it demands perseverance.
This is why I am so proud of the OBA’s Solution Circles. The OBA is using its Solution Circles to bring together lawyers of all genders and diverse perspectives into a positive, creative, solution-focused setting to discuss specific problems, explore avenues to address root causes of inequality, and suggest productive, tangible steps – however small or seemingly simple - to take on the issues in bite-sized pieces. We connect these together to build momentum and ultimately move the profession toward larger, more significant improvements. If you’d like to host a Solution Circle with your law firm, law school, or organization, I encourage you to get in touch with us through the OBA’s Speakers Bureau.
A common theme and suggestion identified in our most recent Solution Circles was the need to highlight and remind people about the deep-seated ways inequality occurs. As a result of these conversations and suggestions, the OBA has launched a thought-provoking awareness-raising campaign that will prompt people to consider and question some of the unconscious biases that still exist today.
The campaign has been rolling out on the OBA’s social media channels, and it is our hope that our engaged and supportive network will share the images widely, helping to draw attention to the topic of gender roles and inequality in the profession and to encourage them to consider changing their behaviours and assumptions to make a difference. You can also download campaign posters to hang in your office here: http://www.oba.org/Momentum/Awareness.
Law firms that want to show their commitment to advancing gender equality in the profession may also request printed posters of the ads with their logos and branding, free of charge, from the OBA. Everyone has a role to play in advancing gender equality, and we welcome our partners who also want to get involved in the important work of building awareness and taking ownership for creating and promoting equal opportunities for all lawyers.
These incremental steps – raising awareness, engaging in discussions, exploring the issues, identifying solutions – are how, together, we build our momentum toward full-scale equality.
I am proud that the OBA is a group of dedicated practitioners genuinely concerned about equality, and every day we are working to bring the practical supports to lawyers and law firms as they continue on this important mission.