The UN has themed International Women’s Day (IWD) 2023 DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality, celebrating women in tech and their achievements in the advancement of transformative, diverse, equitable and inclusive technologies and innovations.
Innovation is at the core of Caravel’s model. Spearheading that innovation are the women within our community who have experienced challenges balancing work and life firsthand and understand what we need to make work more equitable.
Our Director of Legal Innovation, Monica Goyal, is a leader in the tech and legal spaces. Monica’s educational and professional career has been deeply intertwined with both industries. She has a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Monica has taught at Osgoode Hall Law School and Lincoln Alexander Law School (affiliated with Toronto Metropolitan University). She is the former founder of My Legal Briefcase and has been named as one of the 10 Women to Watch in Tech in the Journal of the American Bar Association.
As one of the many women in the Caravel community that inspires us, we sat down with Monica to discuss her experience in legal and tech spaces as a woman, leader, teacher, and innovator.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman in your professional career? Have there been challenges unique to legal and tech industries?
It’s challenging. Period. It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific moment, it was just challenging to find opportunities for advancement. And so, I paved my own way by starting My Legal Briefcase Inc., a legal tech startup that provided small claims court forms. I eventually found my way to Caravel where I’ve had the opportunity to advance in both tech and law.
That being said, I’m happy to witness what feels like a turning point in both of these industries. The number of women entering law has significantly increased. I have been teaching law students in law and technology for around eight years. This year was the first time I noticed there are more women than men in my class. It’s moments like those where you can really see the tides turning.
How do you believe prioritizing innovation and technology in the workplace can help women?
I attended the Women in Law Summit recently and we actually asked ChatGPT a very similar question. One of the interesting points it raised was around efficiency.
Here is a piece of ChatGPT’s answer: Legal tech has the potential to have a positive impact on women in the legal profession by increasing efficiency and automating repetitive tasks, which can help to level the playing field for women who may have historically been at a disadvantage in terms of workload and career advancement.
The argument to leave women out of the conversation is often founded on this notion that the responsibilities of being a mother interferes with efficiency and commitment to the workplace. Now that tech provides tools for everyone to work flexibly and efficiently from anywhere, it has become hard to maintain this narrative that a woman’s personal obligations interfere with her work. Further, the proliferation of new cloud-based technologies has allowed us at Caravel for many years, even prior to the pandemic, to rethink the traditional law firm and explore offering legal services remotely.
How are you and Caravel working to support women in the workplace and the wider community? In what ways do you feel you and Caravel have innovated or used innovations to support women?
I immediately think of the instances where a woman has taken a break from her career and is looking for an opportunity to re-enter the work force and ends up at Caravel. We are a legal model that understands that careers are not always linear and encourages people to return to the legal work that they are passionate about when the time is right for them. Our model lets us offer this support to the people on our team who seek that flexibility and to our clients who are trying to do the same.
Further, we encourage all lawyers to participate in the innovation process. For example, several women on our team have assisted us in the trial and deployment of new legal tech. This might seem small, but it’s a means of building tech that works for and with women as much as anyone else.
Is there a woman who you find inspiring?
There are tons of women we can take inspiration from, but I think someone who inspired me when I was younger was Indra Nooyi. She was the former CEO of PepsiCo, and I can recall hearing her speak during her time at the company and the ways in which she approached innovation.
It’s interesting to think about how such a large global company attempts to innovate itself. Pepsi is an internationally established brand and product, and yet innovation and improvement in all respects remained a top priority for Indra. Her approach to innovation and her leadership values really shone through as something we could all learn from.
This whole conversation ties in with the course in access to justice and technology that I teach at TMU. In class and into their careers, I encourage my students to think critically about the ways we can leverage tech to address justice issues. In many ways I feel it comes down to accessibility – legal tech and innovation in general allows us to make law and justice more accessible. Access to justice is a women’s issue.
Caravel’s people and model has really helped to pave the way for more accessible legal services, and has done so by leveraging tech. I’m proud of the standard we are setting in the legal and tech communities.
IWD takes place annually on March 8th. To learn more about DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality and the IWD mission, visit UN Women: International Women’s Day.