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B.C. lawyer calls for signs to change with the times and be gender-neutral
Imagine walking into a workplace to find a room where those in the same field as you can relax, network and change into more appropriate work clothes. Now imagine how you'd feel if the sign on the door said it was for men only.
That's the experience Vancouver lawyer, Kyla Lee is describing about a visit to the Vernon Law Courts. She said a room upstairs featured "nice couches" along with access to phones and a printer as well as information relevant to lawyers, including a job board. The sign on the door said "Male Barristers" she recounted. When Lee saw it, she wasn't sure if she should or could go in.
"I felt very confused, I felt angry, I felt a little bit sad and I felt very uncomfortable," Lee told CTV Vancouver.
It turned out the room is for everyone.
When Lee walked into the basement of the courthouse, she found another room – that had the sign "Lady Barristers" covered up with letter-sized white paper with "Duty Counsel" typed on it.
The lawyer documented her experience in a Twitter thread and is now asking the Attorney General to find gender-neutral language for the door to be more welcoming.
"It made me feel less than in a place where I'm supposed to feel confident so I can do the best work possible for my clients," she added.
David Eby wasn't available for an interview Monday but is expected to speak about the issue on Tuesday.
The controversy goes beyond the Vernon courthouse.
In February, lawyers in Toronto complained about male lawyers being given an expansive "Robing Room" while women had a much smaller, much plainer room.
The spaces are used for work, networking, and to change into courtroom-appropriate attire.
Toronto Lawyer Breanna Needham, who was behind a petition asking for equal treatment, says the different rooms show the disparity that still exists in many professions.
"Often the smaller issues get forgotten about," she explained, adding that she is still stunned society is dealing with this issue. "They fade into the background and become our blind spots."
Needham also pointed out some of these rooms were established long before there were large numbers of women in the field. Yet, she said there's a need now to take another look, and see how they impact people who deal with this on a daily basis.
"It's a metaphor for women in law women in our society, we're often a bit of an afterthought," added Needham. "It's not intentional exclusion but it's exclusion that matters."