Neha Sharma stands in front of a tree wearing a UofT sweater.

UTM Women in Law founder sets sights on starting non-profit after graduation

Ali Raza

Neha Sharma is passionate about women’s rights. It’s what brought her to U of T Mississauga from Saskatoon, and it’s what’s driving her forward as she pursues law school.

Sharma is graduating this week with a double major in criminology, law & society and sociology. During her undergraduate studies, she was involved in executive roles at more than seven student groups, including UTM Mock Trial Competition and UTM Women in Law, the group she founded.

“It was meeting new people outside of academics,” Sharma says when asked why she participated in so many groups and activities.

In addition, Sharma was the recipient of the University of Toronto Student Leadership Award last year while she volunteered with the UTM Students’ Union and served as a Facilitated Study Group leader. All that while she managed a heavy course load from a double major packed with multiple readings and essays.

“If you meet like-minded people, it’s great. You can network, you can go to their events, you can meet lawyers, law students, and talk to them.”

It’s that networking that has emboldened her desire to pursue law. At just 22 years old, Sharma has a clear plan for her future – she wants to become a criminal lawyer focusing on women’s rights issues. And it all started at UTM.

“I was in second year and took a few crime courses and it was really interesting to learn about so many social issues,” Sharma says.

She then began looking to different clubs at UTM, especially those focused on law or women’s rights. It’s that passion and interest that drove her to start the UTM Women in Law student group.

“There was no club related to those two things,” Sharma says. “That’s why I started it.”

Extracurricular activities were also her way to unwind from a heavy course load. Her active participation and initiative prompted her sociology professor Jerry Flores, to nominate Sharma for a UTM Student Leadership award last year, which she went on to win.

“I was really surprised!” Sharma says.

A natural introvert, Sharma had to learn how to be more extroverted and talk to new people. It’s why she loved the UTM Mock Trial Competition – it forced her to learn, she says.

“You really have to talk, be a good speaker, and those are things you can learn,” Sharma says. “Ultimately when you have to do it, you have to do it.”

Sharma recently moved to London, Ont. Where she plans to take a year off to do her LSATs, apply to law schools and start a non-profit organization focused on women’s rights and empowerment.

“Similar to the club I started in fourth year, I want to promote women’s empowerment in everything, not just law,” Sharma says.