70 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 76 PART 1 JANUARY 2018
In the past, many women left the profession because of gender-based
hardships. Today, there remains a fourteen per cent difference in the retention
rates of men and women.2 Women leave private practice earlier and
with greater frequency than their male counterparts. Of all women called
to the bar in 2003, sixty-six per cent of women were practising in 2008, compared
to eighty per cent of men.
In a 2015 survey of 400 female lawyers conducted through the Mapping
Her Path project, one in three respondents reported that they had experienced
gender-based or sexual harassment in the profession. Many women
described not reporting anything out of fear of career repercussions. For the
minority who did report inappropriate sexual behaviour, many explained
that they did not feel their complaint was handled properly.
Of the women JES surveyed who had left private practice, sixty-one per
cent said that the workplace environment contributed to their decision to
leave. Given that one-third of women in practice have reported being victim
to gender-based harassment, clearly there are still important gender issues
to be addressed in B.C.’s legal profession.
Comment 2: There may still be some gender issues, but we are making great
There is certainly an encouraging upward trend in gender ratios. More and
more women are entering the profession. Women have been graduating
Canadian law schools in equal or greater numbers as compared to men for
the last decade. But currently, in B.C., women make up only thirty-nine per
cent of practising lawyers.3
The proportion of female lawyers practising in B.C. has grown and so we
do see more women advancing and reaching partnership. The Law Society
of Upper Canada has been tracking the gender ratio of partners for the last
eight years. In 2009 the gender ratio of partners at Ontario firms was eightyone
per cent male and nineteen per cent female. By 2016 the ratio had
changed to seventy-six per cent male and twenty-four per cent female. The
relative percentage of female partners is increasing, but at a slow pace of
less than one per cent per year. If change continues at this pace, it would
take until 2057 to achieve gender parity among partners at law firms. The
legal profession has made and is still making progress, but having to wait 40
years for gender parity is disheartening.
Comment 3: Women in practice have issues, but men face barriers too.
Working in the legal profession can often be stressful and demanding. Most
lawyers face challenges in striking a work-life balance, and all genders may