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U of T celebrates women trailblazing in law

|Written By By Kirsten McMahon

To celebrate International Women's Day, the faculty of law at the University of Toronto unveiled a photo exhibit honouring many of the law school's female "trailblazers."

Avvy Yao-Yao Go. Graduated 1989. Clinic Director, Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. "There is a Chinese saying that food is heaven. . . . Many early Chinese immigrants opened their own restaurants because of racism. Today, many trained professionals are still working in restaurants, exploited and underpaid."Photos: Taffi Rosen Photography. Used with permission from U of T, Faculty of Law.
Avvy Yao-Yao Go. Graduated 1989. Clinic Director, Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. "There is a Chinese saying that food is heaven. . . . Many early Chinese immigrants opened their own restaurants because of racism. Today, many trained professionals are still working in restaurants, exploited and underpaid."Photos: Taffi Rosen Photography. Used with permission from U of T, Faculty of Law.

The faculty held a ceremony on March 8 to honour some of the women alumni who have made significant and important contributions to the legal profession and who are representative of the women law graduates at the school as a whole.

The exhibit, entitled "Trailblazers," features 19 photographs of women law graduates that sum up the passions and spirits of those selected.

Mayo Moran, who became the first female dean in the law school's history at the start of the year, tells Law Times this exhibit is important because it showcases the remarkable achievements of some of the grads, but also provides an opportunity for law students to mingle with veterans of the profession.

"We now have 50 per cent women as students in the faculty but in the short period of a few decades we've gone from very, very few women to very many and I think a lot of the women who have been in that transitional period have quite amazing stories, which is wonderful," she says.

"I also think that law is still a difficult profession for women. The legal profession still has trouble retaining women at the rates that it would want to and firms are concerned about that. I think it's good to celebrate the good things that women have been able to do and to point to the areas where we still have work yet to do."

Jane Kidner, assistant dean, says a committee of alumni, faculty members, students, and staff — of both sexes — was struck to choose which women would be featured in the exhibit.

"The committee wanted to choose a real cross-section of women who had gone on to succeed in their careers in very many different ways and really create their own definition of success based on their own passions, their own interests, their own commitment in life to whatever it is that makes them get up in the morning and want to go to work," she says.

Some of the women alumni featured are: Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella; Kirby Chown, the Ontario regional managing partner of McCarthy Tétrault LLP; Maureen Kempston Darkes, vice-president of the General Motors Group; Avvy Yao-Yao Go, director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic; and law professors Carol Rogerson and Lorraine Weinrib, who's also a columnist for Law Times.

"Each of these women is a trailblazer and a wonderful example of leadership and many great achievements unto themselves but they're also examples and stand as representatives of all of our women graduates, because they touch upon so many different areas of the profession," says Kidner.

A unique facet of the exhibit is that the women chose how they would be photographed in order to reflect their passions and interests.

"This came about through conversations and listening to their stories. It really is very much about them. That really comes out in the photos when you allow someone to be themselves and not say, 'We want you here sitting behind a desk in your suit,'" says Kidner.

Moran says she's thrilled with the way the photo exhibit turned out.

"I had, of course, seen proofs of them but it's really wonderful and inspiring to see them up there. They are beautiful photos. It's quite dramatic.

"It's clear that these are really whole, interesting people who have done amazing things with a background in law. Even apart from gender, I think that's an important message as well."

People looking to catch a glimpse of the exhibit are invited to Flavelle House at the U of T's faculty of law, where it will be displayed on a permanent basis.

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