Today is International Women’s Day. I’ve never considered myself a feminist – I’ve honestly always thought that as a female, if you want something, you can work hard and achieve it, just like your male counterpart. I reflected on what today means to me, particularly as a female litigation lawyer who has had children in recent years. It occurred to me that there are certainly some challenges that female lawyers face that simply aren’t an issue for the men.
With respect to pregnancy, the article below touches on one common issue, how a pregnant lawyer is supposed to comply with the strict courtroom dress code. Thankfully, this issue appears to have been formally addressed and remedied. In my own career, just prior to my last maternity leave, I was annoyed to actually have to participate in a hearing seeking the court’s ruling on whether or not my client’s trial could be scheduled to accommodate my maternity leave. (It is a fundamental right under our Charter that a client has the right to the lawyer of their choice.) The other side was opposing, claiming that it wasn’t reasonable for their client to have to wait the extra months. I remember feeling mortified that my personal medical status had become relevant to my client’s matter, but indignant enough that I was ready to preach from the soapbox for the ‘cause’.
Fortunately for both my client and I, Justice MacDougall of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, is progressive enough to understand that a maternity leave is not a ‘vacation’ or a selfish inconvenience to be dealt with. His unequivocal ruling was that in this day in age he would be embarrassed to rule that a woman should in any way be disadvantaged in advocating for a client simply as a result of being pregnant and requesting a reasonable delay in scheduling a matter in order to take a maternity leave. In the grand scheme of the status of women around the world it was a small milestone, but I remain proud of the contribution I made to moving us one step closer to “Planet 50-50 by 2030”