Navigating Complexity: The Intersectional Struggles of Women Lawyers

June 26, 2024


The legal profession faces significant challenges, particularly for women and racialized lawyers, due to issues of intersectionality. These systemic barriers, including compensation disparities and cultural biases, hinder career progression and well-being. By addressing the unique experiences of racialized women lawyers, we can create a more equitable and supportive environment, ensuring equal opportunities for success for all lawyers.


Unique Challenges for Racialized Women Lawyers


Racialized women lawyers often face unique challenges that stem from their dual minority status. Financial pressures are significant, as these women are not only underrepresented in senior legal positions but are also more likely to face the glass cliff, where they’re given leadership roles during periods of crisis. This sets them up for higher risks of failure not related to their competencies.

The situation is further complicated for women lawyers new to Canada, who may face additional hurdles such as undergoing the requalification process, language barriers, lack of a professional network, and cultural differences in workplace norms.

Furthermore, filial piety and the responsibilities of women in the ‘sandwich generation’ — those caring for both their children and elderly parents — can lead to increased emotional and financial stress, affecting their professional lives and career advancement.


Compensation Disparities Revealed


In June 2024, The Counsel Network, in partnership with the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association (CCCA), released the eighth wave of its In-House Counsel Compensation & Career Survey Report. The report showed female in-house counsel reported an average base salary $21.5K less than male in-house counsel.

Just over one-quarter (26%) of the group identified as racialized lawyers and reported a mean salary $7.5K below that reported by non-racialized lawyers. Racialized females reported an average salary of $178.5K ($17.5K below the average salary).

For further information, or to receive a copy of the report, please register at


Call to Action: Finding Solutions


To address disparities and foster equity, it’s essential to collect data on the experiences of women in law. Accurate, comprehensive data collection allows for targeted interventions and policy reforms designed to support women lawyers effectively, ensuring that equity isn’t just an ideal but a tangible goal.

At The Counsel Network, we maintain close ties and relationships with equity-seeking legal groups, including the South Asian Bar Association, the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers, and the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers. The ongoing challenges faced by women, including racialized women lawyers, underscore the need for systemic changes. To foster a truly inclusive legal community, it’s important to address compensation disparities, provide equal advancement opportunities, and create a supportive workplace environment.

To support these goals, in November, we will release the results of a longitudinal survey of Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) members and Black lawyers across Canada. Conducted alongside CABL and supported by the TD Ready Commitment, this survey will provide data on the Black experience in the legal profession. The results will be released in November 2024.

To request a copy, please send an email to