Don’t Shut Up, Shut It Down – Addressing Sexism in the Legal Profession as a Young Lawyer

  • March 28, 2023
  • Keagan David-Burns, associate at Cunningham Swan Carty Little & Bonham LLP

Each International Women’s Day I reflect on and celebrate not only women in the world at large, but within the legal profession. Inevitably this reflection becomes disheartening when I recall all the sexism I’ve been exposed to in the profession, and how far we still have to go. Being a less than five-year call, already coping with imposter syndrome and a lack of confidence, standing up to sexism is sometimes the last thing I want to do. But what I’ve learned over my first few years of practice is that it is absolutely necessary to effect any change. Shutting down comments won’t eradicate all sexism, but the little steps add up to a big movement.  

I recognize my privilege of being a white, able-bodied female lawyer in this profession and that others face far more discrimination than me on several grounds other than sex. This article is not to downplay their experiences, but rather to comment on my own personal experiences with sexism and the lessons learned, in hopes that it gives others (and not just women) the confidence to shut down discrimination and demand change.

The first blatantly sexist comment I remember while in the legal profession happened when I was in law school. A practicing lawyer so *graciously* gave me the advice that I should always wear a skirt to interviews – never pants. I was gobsmacked that in 2017, this was serious advice being given. But I also didn’t call out the comment, and I regret it to this day.