Program covers personal, business and group leadership, communication, collaboration and networking
The Women in Law Leadership corporation has introduced an education program in partnership with the University of Calgary Faculty of Law and the Law Society of Alberta. Sameera Sereda, chair of the WILL board, says they developed the program to empower and provide women in law with the knowledge, skills and network to thrive in personal and professional leadership throughout their careers while incorporating equity diversity and inclusion.
There’s a gap in leadership programs for women lawyers, and Sereda says no education program focuses on women lawyers in leadership or aspiring for a leadership role that is collaborative and transformative.
“We’re not interested in creating something that already exists. We want to find gaps in the legal profession in relation to women and opportunities to advance, celebrate and educate them, and we saw a gap.”
Sereda — co-owner and managing partner of the counsel network, a lawyer recruitment company — says she approached the Association of Women Lawyers to create the women leadership awards in 2009. They then established the Women in Law Leadership organization.
WILL is a not-for-profit corporation that celebrates and advances women in the law through recognition and education. “We formed a committee under women in law leadership called WILL education and that committee for the past two and almost three years developing, creating, promoting the education program.”
Sereda says the University of Calgary law faculty and the Law Society of Alberta are pivotal in developing content for participants to finish the program feeling empowered with the skills and practice to lead. “Our goal was really to create a program that would be collaborative and transformative, and at the end of the program, we want women lawyers to feel empowered to lead from every seat and at every stage of their career.”
The education program will cover five themes built upon each other, Sereda says. The first theme is personal leadership, and participants will define and activate their leadership vision and explore barriers and opportunities for women lawyers in leadership.
The second theme focuses on business leadership skills, and Sereda says participants take their leadership vision and start to explore how to approach business and leadership challenges.
The third theme, team leadership, involves taking the knowledge acquired from the personal and business leadership class. Sereda says participants learn how to build and lead an effective and inclusive team.
Communication and collaboration are the fourth themes, and participants translate their leadership skills into communication and addressing challenges in working with others. “This is where we’ll do some roleplay and conflict management techniques and practise how to deliver messages.”
Networking and connection are the education program’s final theme, and participants will focus on investing in developing their professional network. Sereda says that the interaction with other women in the program will be critical for their networks in the future.
Two instructors will lead the program with a coach in residence, providing coaching services to the participants. Sereda says the program faculty combines women lawyer leaders, including some judges, managing partners of law firms, and women business trailblazers. “It’s a great group of women leaders who are coming to teach and facilitate this program.”
The program lasts four and a half days over four weeks, and Sereda says the advantage is that lawyers can return to their workplaces between classes to practise the skills they learn.
“They’ll have assignments to complete and come back to share,” Sameera says, “the program allows women to practise the skills they’re learning in the classroom, and we want to encourage as many women lawyers as possible to take advantage of the program.”
The program requires in-person attendance and is open to everyone, but Sereda says the first cohort is primarily from Calgary. “We may have a couple from across the province willing to travel to Calgary for the in-person.”
Rather than pivoting to an online course, which she says would not do justice to the program, the committee has changed the dates a few times because of the pandemic and is working on executing it in April or May. “We’re very committed to delivering this program in person because that’s how it was written.”
Sereda says in-person attendance is critical because it is an engaging, interactive program. Once the pilot program is complete and has a graduating class, the committee hopes to replicate the course in other parts of the country. “At some point, it may be modified or rewritten as an online program depending on the needs of the community.”