Vance Center and IAWL Co-Host International Women’s Day Program

March 2024

The event, hosted with the Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL), reinforced the Vance Center’s efforts to address gender inequality and support women’s leadership in the legal profession in countries across Africa.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the Vance Center and IAWL hosted a virtual professional development program entitled “Count Her In: Gender Equality in the Workplace.” 

Lorraine McGowen, the Vance Center’s executive committee co-chair and partner at Orrick, provided opening remarks. In her introduction, McGowen outlined the Vance Center’s more than two decades of work on inclusion and diversity on the African continent, beginning with the creation of the African Legal Fellows Program more than 20 years ago, and expanding into new initiatives like a mentorship program for young Black women lawyers in South Africa, a pro bono clearinghouse in Kenya, and collaborations with organizations like IAWL.  

In a lively conversation, panelists Isobel Acquah, Dr. Edem Okudzeto, Dr. Mathero Michelle Nkhalamba, Wangari Joyce Kagai, and Belinda Mapongwana – an alum of the Legal Fellows Program – discussed how bar associations, law firms, and even individual male allies within the legal profession can accelerate gender equality through equitable hiring and promotion and taking concrete steps to ensure equal work for equal pay. They emphasized the importance of practical policies to economically empower women in the law and achieve gender parity in the field. 

The discussion built on several recent reports analyzing gaps in access and barriers to women attaining senior leadership positions throughout the legal field, including a 2023 series of country reports by IAWL analyzing women’s representation in law and leadership in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Senegal; and an analysis conducted by the Nigerian chapter of the Vance Center’s Women in the Profession (WIP) program.  

Most recently, the Vance Center’s Advancing Women in the Workplace (AWW) program on March 1 published a survey analyzing barriers and challenges for Black women in South Africa’s legal profession. The survey identified many of the same issues surfaced in the IAWL country reports and the March 8 discussion. Read more about the survey launch and AWW mentorship program here.