“Women in many cultures are told to do more, accept less and be okay with whatever they get. We need to change that belief. A woman is a complete person, on her own. She is equally entitled to education, nourishment, opportunities, successes and rewards.” - Sonia Virk
In today’s world as more and more women are taking up leadership roles, here’s one South Asian woman whose success story is an inspiration to many. Sonia Virk, co-founder of Virk Viyas & Associate Lawyers in Surrey, has come a long way since her move to Canada in 2001. An efficient lawyer, successful entrepreneur, community leader, and independent woman – known for her various roles in the community, Virk has excelled beautifully in each.
In March, Virk received the Women in Business Award from the Surrey Board of Trade (SBOT). “It has been an honour to receive such a prestigious award. It feels good to be recognized by the Surrey Board of Trade for my work as a lawyer and community involvement,” says Virk, of the event that recognizes the hard work of Surrey’s businesswomen and their contributions to the city.
The talented lawyer hopes that her award acts as an inspiration to all women struggling in their professions. “Women in many cultures are told to do more, accept less and be okay with whatever they get. We need to change that belief. A woman is a complete person, on her own. She is equally entitled to education, nourishment, opportunities, successes and rewards,” declares Virk.
This declaration comes from her personal experience of struggles, challenges and achievements. Being a first generation immigrant, Virk had a lot of anxiety about her career when she first arrived to Canada. “After I finished law school in Canada and started working, there was still a lot of anxiety, as I didn't know anyone.” This anxiety was overcome with her hard work, determination, and community involvement. “I have built my law practice through networking. I met a lot of people and became part of organizations,” says Virk, who always dreamt of being financially independent.
Recalling her decision to become a lawyer, Virk shares that her family always emphasized on the importance of education. “I knew I had to choose a field and pursue education accordingly. I had seen many women dependent on others for their finances. From a very young age, I knew I wanted to be financially independent and I knew I could only achieve that through education.” Thus, she chose the field of law as she didn’t want to be a doctor or an engineer. “However, I believe that I was meant to do this. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” adds Virk.
In 2007, Virk was elected as the youngest president of the Indo-Canadian Business Association, and the first woman to hold the seat. She has also been appointed to BC’s Small Business Roundtable, and serves on the board of directors for G&F Financial Group, holding the 2nd Vice-President position since 2015. In March 2016, she was appointed as a public member to the board of the College of Dieticians of British Columbia.
Virk believes that society has become more accepting of females in powerful positions. “We still have a long way to go but more women are taking up lead roles in businesses and other organizations. They are excelling in their roles and are being offered leadership roles,” she states, adding, “Women form half of world’s population and it is time that we claim our share of the world.”
I ask her what skills should young women entrepreneurs need to excel. “Young women who wish to start a business or a career, should be self assured,” she answers, further elaborating, “There is no need to make compromises. You can be who you want to be on your terms. They should obtain the skills they require to run that specific business or career and be good at it. That’s all you need.”
The leading lady points out that an entrepreneur should know how to deal with every aspect of that business. “If your staff quits, you should be able to step in and do what they did for you. Do some research into what is required to operate the business. Hire good staff. Manage your finances really well,” she advices.
She also stresses on a good work life balance and recommends going on holidays, spending time with family and friends and taking care of your health. “Do what you love doing. At the end of the day, money in your bank is just a number, until you get to enjoy it.”
Her message to those interested in a law career: “Law is a great field to be in. Law will open up so many opportunities for you. Research what you want to do. Try to get summer positions while you are in law school. Do well in school. Law will always demand hard work. Be prepared for it and enjoy this wonderful profession.”