Perhaps the most dramatic change within the first fifty years of the law school’s history was the advancement of women as a proportion of both the student body and the faculty at UBC. Although women were formally granted permission to practice law in British Columbia in 1912, discrimination within the legal profession discouraged countless women from entering it, and disadvantaged those few who did.
Nevertheless, women were present from the beginning of the law school’s history in 1945. According to W. Wesley Pue, there is no record of formal discrimination against women in the admissions process at the law school, nor is there any record of affirmative action in later decades to admit more women into UBC.
In 1988 UBC admitted 118 women and 110 men into first year law. As a result, for the first time in the law school’s history the graduating class in 1991 included more women than men. Since breaking that barrier, women now frequently outnumber men in the law school, and approximate numerical gender parity is now the norm.
Women who have graduated from law school at UBC have gone on to break many other barriers as well, including:
• the first woman to receive the Law Society of British Columbia’s gold medal
• the first woman to receive a QC in British Columbia
• the first woman elected a Law Society Bencher
• the first woman Treasurer (President) of the Law Society
• the first woman appointed to the BC Supreme Court
• the first woman to be Elected Chief for the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation
• the first woman to be Dean of the law school
• the first woman to be Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada
• the first woman to be Minister of National Defence of Canada (or of any NATO country)
• the first woman to be Prime Minister of Canada
For more, read “Opening the Portals” in W. Wesley Pue’s Law School: The Story of Legal Education in British Columbia,
And view a graph of the gender gap in the law school between 1948 and 1998.*
*Data may be incomplete for some graduating classes