40 girls, youth to visit Kitchener courthouse, learn about careers in law

Girls and youth from Waterloo region will participate in Braiding Diversity into Justice, a new initiative to get more women into legal careers.

Braiding Diversity into Justice event on Nov. 6 organized by Ontario Justice Education Network

On Nov. 6, a group of 40 girls and youth will visit the Waterloo Region Courthouse on Frederick Street in Kitchener for an event aimed at getting more women interested in legal careers. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Young women from Waterloo region are about to get their day in court and Kitchener-based lawyer Jennifer Breithaupt hopes they have a blast.

The 40 girls and youth are participating in Braiding Diversity into Justice, a new initiative of the Ontario Justice Education Network that aims to attract more women to legal careers.

"Certainly the law can still be a very male dominated kind of area," said Breithaupt, who is the principal lawyer at her own firm, Breithaupt Law. 

She said careers in law can be associated with character traits — like aggression or physical strength — that tend to be "socialized out of young women."

Barriers to participation

Other forms of marginalization — such as poverty, family background or racialization — can add another barrier, she added. 

"Those sorts of groups then have the additional layer of often not having the role models immediately available to them," she said.

We need you and we want you to join us and create a more diverse profession.- Jennifer Breithaupt

"They might be the first person to attend college, let alone law school and those longer-term graduate study programs."

As a result, she said, it's not unusual for girls and youth to grow up thinking they wouldn't qualify for a job as a lawyer, paralegal or police officer. 

But the Braiding Diversity into Justice initiative aims to change that by not only introducing women to the courthouse on Frederick Street, but also introducing them to women who are working in legal professions. 

Breithaupt, who is the event's master of ceremonies, said judges, lawyers and police officers will be speakers at the event.

"What we're trying to do is encourage them right from the front end," she said. "Plant those seeds that they can do this: you can be a lawyer, a police officer, a probation officer, a paralegal ... We need you and we want you to join us and create a more diverse profession."

The event runs all day on Nov. 6. The deadline for applications, which can be submitted by a participant's teacher, is Oct. 31.