Joan Brockman
Joan Brockman

Bar association honours SFU female lawyers crusader

August 19, 2008

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SFU criminology professor Joan Brockman has won the Canadian Bar Association’s (CBA) 2008 Cecilia I. Johnstone Award in recognition of her outstanding work to advance the standing and influence of women in the legal profession.

As a legal scholar and educator, Brockman has been instrumental in promoting law-firm workplace policies that eliminate gender disparities, including changes to codes of conduct rules relating to sexual harassment, parental leave, workplace accommodation and professional development.

“It is impossible to enter a serious discussion about the advancement of women in the legal profession without mentioning Joan Brockman,” says Veronica Jackson, national chair of the CBA’s Women Lawyers Forum.

“She has demonstrated exceptional leadership in this area through her scholarship, her policy-related work and her teaching and mentorship. Professor Brockman’s career has directly supported the advancement of women lawyers and encouraged the retention of women lawyers in the profession.”

Collaborating with the Law Society of British Columbia in the late 1980s, Brockman launched two large-scale surveys of the profession. The work was groundbreaking in its focus on gender disparities in the profession. One survey, directed at past members of the profession, explored the reasons for exiting legal careers. Brockman used the data to produce two reports to the law society, and later, several scholarly papers.

Among her best-known writings is Gender in the Legal Profession: Fitting or Breaking the Mould (2001). The book investigates the views and experiences of men and women lawyers through 100 in-depth interviews and is considered essential reading for those studying gender in the legal profession.

During the early 1990s, Professor Brockman served on the steering committee of the National Association of Women and the Law and contributed reports directly to the CBA’s Task Force on Gender Equality, led by Madam Justice Bertha Wilson.

“Joan’s work has shown that although much change has occurred, considerable work remains to be done before women are fully equal in the profession,” says UBC law professor Susan Boyd, one of Brockman’s nominators.

“Rather than despair, however, Joan has consistently worked towards improvement, by making concrete recommendations about what can be done.”

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