The Vancouver law firm is offering employees a monthly stipend for each child until the age of five
Nine months into launching her own law firm, mother of two Abby Pang is already starting to challenge industry norms around becoming a parent. “Some women feel that they need to hide their pregnancy, and that's a problem,” she says.
Seeing her own parents go through divorce, Richmond-raised Pang understands firsthand the toll that a family-related issues can take on mental health. That, coupled with her volunteer experience at pro bono legal clinic Rise Women’s Legal Centre and advocacy organization Battered Women’s Support Services, motivated her to specialize in family law after graduating from law school in Hong Kong in 2008.
“I had a vision to have a practice that was women-centered, where policies were created by women in support of women, in hopes to do my part in lowering the attrition rate of female lawyers in B.C. so that the community could be adequately represented,” she says. Her vision came into fruition last year when she launched Illuma Family Law in downtown Vancouver.
As Pang puts it, the attrition rate for female lawyers is high, and much of it is tied to parental leave policies in the industry. Having seen too many women give up their careers to be a primary caregiver, Pang wanted to make parents feel celebrated rather than burdened. “If law firms in Vancouver improve their support for parents and women in the legal field, the quality of legal services in B.C. will level up in critical ways,” she maintains.
To help mitigate the stigmas around divorce and parenthood, Pang is leading by example with her own practice. Illuma just announced its new child care top-up plan, which offers employees who have been with the firm for at least one year a monthly stipend to use towards supplies, postnatal care or anything that parents of newborns or young children might need. The plan will support those returning from parental leave with supplementary payments per child until the child turns five years old. The timing of this announcement wasn't a coincidence: it's in honour of International Women's Day (March 8).
“We understand that there are more ways to support women and parents than just a monetary amount, but I felt that this would be a good start,” says Pang. She lists pay equity, having male allies and placing more females in leadership positions as some keys ways to lower the attrition rates of women in law. But she pins removing the stigma around parenthood as a major step forward for her: “We love families and children, so why not show it?”