Gender Equity Committee: Report on Gender Discrimination and Harassment Survey

Gender based discrimination and harassment is a problem for most employers. The legal profession is no exception and many studies have identified issues and barriers that are unique to female lawyers.

The Society’s seeks to ensure that Nova Scotians will be served by a legal profession that is diverse, inclusive and culturally competent. To advance this goal, the Society seeks to identify and address barriers that affect the retention and advancement of members from diverse and equity-seeking groups in the profession.

As part of this work, the Society sought to learn more about how gender-based discrimination and harassment is affecting lawyers in practice in Nova Scotia today, and to understand how this may have changed over time. The last time the Society explored this issue in depth was in 2008 through the Gender Equity Committee’s It Will Be Our Little Secret postcard campaign. This project saw the Society distribute postcards to every member of the Society and invited them to return them with a story of a time they experienced gender-based discrimination or harassment. Over 50 postcards were returned, and many of these stories were published in a booklet that was distributed to the membership. The stories, which describe unwanted touching, sexist jokes, and uncaring leadership, likely read to many as though they could have been written recently.

To learn more about barriers resulting from gender-based discrimination and harassment in the present, the Society’s Gender Equity Committee designed and distributed an online questionnaire to members in 2019. This report summarizes these findings and our next step is to research and consider what recommendations the Committee will make to Council and the Society to address the issues and what these results have uncovered.