When Lynne Vicars took over as president of the Ontario Bar Association in 2018, she made it her mission to shine a light on the issue of gender inequality in the legal profession. She had heard the stories from colleagues, and even experienced it herself, so she knew how big of an issue it was – and how big of a job changing things was going to be.
Still, she plotted a course to level the playing field and move the careers of female lawyers forward. She wasn’t aware at the time, though, that to go forward, she was going to have to look back.
Recently, Vicars and the OBA launched the Momentum Campaign — a visual awareness-raising project that features vintage posters with exaggerated role reversals in legal settings designed to force people to consider why a scenario looks funny and out of place one way, yet still seems normal in the other.
“Imagine a reality where it is no longer easier to automatically process these scenarios in reverse,” Vicars says. “Our point is that there is no ‘right way around’ when it comes to inequality; inequality is no one’s role.”
The Momentum campaign is just another step in her efforts. A few months ago, Vicars invited legal professionals of all genders to gatherings she called Solution Circles. These one-hour sessions explored specific issues related to gender inequality and diversity, and focused on how the profession can make improvements.
A common theme identified in these circles was the need to highlight and remind people about the ways inequality occurs. This new campaign builds upon this work, and is aimed at getting the profession to further consider and question some of the unconscious biases that still exist today.
“The campaign images are intended to highlight the pace of change, as well as draw attention to just how ingrained gender bias is in the legal profession and society, as a whole,” Vicars says. “The vintage aesthetic looks outdated, but the biases presented remain prevalent even in 2019.”
The hope is that the campaign will draw attention to the topic of gender roles and inequality by engaging the profession and encouraging everyone to consider changing their behaviour or assumptions.
Jason Huang-Kung, of Kung Law in Toronto, is one of the nearly two dozen lawyers and law firms who have requested customized posters for their offices. He said he was captivated by the delivery of the message in the campaign.
“Lawyers advocate on behalf of their clients for justice, equality and fairness before and under the law,” he says. “Yet, our profession remains unequal and unfair with respect to opportunities in recruitment, retention and advancement.”
Tamara Tomomitsu, chair of the diversity and inclusion committee at BLG, says the campaign “reaches people in a way that words alone sometimes cannot.”
“(It) promotes awareness of the issues surrounding diversity and inclusion which should be a priority in the legal profession,” she says.
Which is why Vicars firmly believes that the profession will continue to step up.
“Everyone has a role to play in advancing gender equality,” she says. “We know that the vast majority of our profession is committed to advancing gender equality, and are ready to help the OBA keep the momentum going.”
Lawyers and law firms may request custom-branded and printed posters of the ads with their logos, free of charge, from the OBA. Click here to learn more about the campaign and to request your own copies of the posters.