Two Canadian women found they were not being referred cases as often as their male counterparts, so they set up a system to solve the problem for themselves and others. ReferToHer is a website that was created in early 2019 by Toronto lawyers Shara Roy and Sana Halwani. It now lists over 400 female lawyers.
While nearly half the practicing lawyers in Canada are women, Halwani realized that when she was referring cases to lawyers in other fields or at other firms she was most often referring them to older men. She became frustrated that she was not thinking of the good female lawyers she knew and decided to set up a billboard on which she could list some names. After discussing the issue with Roy, the two teamed up to create an online platform.
Enthusiasm from women and men
“After 17 years of practice, we felt that we should use whatever influence we have to make a difference,” said Roy. “We needed to figure out how to lift each others boats, but also how to do it more broadly.”
The initiative was received with great enthusiasm. “We heard stories that were heartwarming and stories that were heartbreaking,” said Roy. Many people thanked them for taking concrete action to improve the lot of female lawyers. Men too, for the most part, had positive reactions.
There was some criticism that the initiative was not inclusive of people of colour and other minorities. Roy and Halwani are looking at partnering with legal organizations focused on people of colour to begin to correct that. The website is a work in progress and other ideas may be implemented.
On October 21, 2020, a Zoom meeting gathered together 150 women to discuss how to address the challenges of the profession.Roy and Halwani will take time to consider what they called “some terrific ideas” and will decided how to move forward.