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The Women in Law Summit is part of an ongoing mission to recognize, celebrate and boost the careers of women in law and inspire the next generation of leaders in the profession.

From supporting continued career progression, to tackling the wage gap, to improving the transparency of partnership pathways and retaining female talent, join us on February 12th in Toronto for a day of inspiration and empowerment.

We’ll be discussing solutions to the unique challenges faced by women in the legal sector, across a packed agenda of industry presentations and panel discussions featuring influential thought-leaders from Canada’s top law firms and companies.

When: February 12, 2020

Where: Arcadian Court, Toronto

Women in Law Masterclass has been accredited for 1 hour and 30 minutes of Professionalism Content and 4 hours and 15 minutes of EDI Professionalism Content.

8:15 am

Registration and networking breakfast

8:55 am

Opening remarks

9:00 am

Panel discussion: Breaking through the glass ceiling: supporting women into leadership positions

Although law school graduations rates are almost equal between men and women, there continues to be a major gap in the number of women in leadership positions across the industry. What are the challenges and structural barriers facing women and how do we address them? What changes need to be made within law societies, bar associations, law firms, corporate legal departments, government and judiciary to address the historical lack of female leadership? This session provides key strategies for promoting female leadership and supporting women in senior positions.

  • Evaluating the latest strategies being deployed by top legal firms to advance female leaders
  • Addressing unique challenges faced by female leaders in different legal professions: in-house, private practice, sole practitioners and government
  • Improving transparency of partnership pathways
  • The implications of family life; eliminating biases associated with family obligations
  • Breaking through the boy's club network; accessing networking and client development opportunities
  • How can male allies help support the advancement of women in the industry?


Lydia Bugden

Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner, Stewart McKelvey


Alena Thouin

Corporate Secretary & Deputy General Counsel , Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA)

Dale Osadchuk

Partner, Davies

Jacquelyn Stevens

President of the Women's Law Association of Ontario, Partner, Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP

Collette Stewarts

Senior Legal Counsel, Interac

9:50 am

Panel discussion: Addressing unconscious bias and discrimination

Unconscious bias is often deep-rooted, affecting everything from hiring, assignment allocation, promotions and compensation. Does bringing awareness to bias and discrimination help alleviate its impact? What strategies are effective for addressing discrimination? How should women respond when confronted with individual instances of unconscious bias or discrimination? This session explores practical steps for addressing bias within the legal industry.

  • Ensuring understanding and acknowledgement of discrimination, harassment, unconscious and structural bias
  • Changing organizational processes and policies to create a safe and inclusive work culture
  • Best practice strategies for mitigating the impact of unconscious bias
  • Tools for challenging bias with professionalism and authority


Denise Dwyer

Ontario Ministry of Education, Assistant Deputy Minister, Indigenous Education and Wellbeing Division


Shara Roy

Partner, Lenczner Slaght

Sunil Gurmukh

Human Rights Lawyer and Adjunct Law Professor, Western Law

Laleh Moshiri

National Director, Diversity and Inclusion, Borden Ladner Gervais

10:40 am

Morning refreshments and networking break

11:00 am

Panel discussion: Defining your own success as a lawyer

The stereotype of a successful female lawyer is often limited to traditional measures of success, alongside a perception that women need to be hard, masculine and unemotional in order to succeed as leaders. However, many women thrive in the industry, establish diverse practices and remain authentic to their identity. This panel discussion seeks advice from prominent leaders on how to become successful in a male dominated industry, define your own career path and develop into an authentic leader.

  • Success strategies from industry leaders
  • Methods for defining your own measures of success
  • Exploring different career paths
  • Being a successful female lawyer whilst being authentic to yourself
  • Key lessons learnt from overcoming adversity to rise to the top


Cheryl Reicin

Partner, Torys LLP


Kelly Kwan

Senior Counsel, Uber

Gina Alexandris

Senior Director, Law Practice Program, Ryerson University

Leila Rafi

Partner in the Capital Markets and M&A Group, McMillan LLP

Lynne Vicars

Chief Innovation and Strategy Officer and Senior Counsel, Heuristica

11:40 am

Leveraging flexible work practices to support better work-life balance

The benefits of a work-life balance and flexible work schedule are well known and an important factor in supporting women juggling their careers with their personal responsibilities. Although many organizations promote flexible work arrangements, there continues to be a discord with the long hours and competitiveness demanded by the legal profession. How do work practices need to change to support flexible working? How can efficiencies be created to minimize the number of work hours? How can you take advantage of flexible hours without being sidelined? This session will discuss:

  • How to evolve traditional legal work models to develop a more agile and flexible profession
  • Bridging the disconnect between availability and use of flexible work policies
  • Moving beyond an industry culture that values long hours and presenteeism
  • Leveraging technology to increase productivity and support a flexible work life
  • Ensuring client care whilst maintaining flexibility
12:25 pm

Networking lunch

1:30 pm

Utilizing mentorship opportunities to grow your career

Creating a supportive network is key to empowering women with the insights, ideas and confidence to advocate for themselves, navigate career challenges and prepare for the future. This session looks at how to leverage the value of mentorship, sponsorship and coaching to advance your career and support the next generation of legal talent.

  • Establishing authentic mentorship with diverse groups
  • Top tips for finding and becoming a mentor
  • Maximizing the benefits of mentorship and sponsorship to pursue career goals
  • Advice for establishing mentorship programs and diversity groups and measuring return on investment

Kim Le

Partner, Stikeman Elliott

Mario Nigro

Partner, Stikeman Elliott

2:15 pm

Panel discussion: Tackling the wage gap

Despite an increase in female leadership across many legal fields, the gender pay gap shows no sign of narrowing and remains a key barrier to achieving gender equality. What policies have been effective at tackling the disparity? How can closing the pay gap become an industry priority? How can women successfully navigate pay discussions? This session looks at key strategies for tackling the wage gap at an industry wide level.

  • How do you correctly value yourself as a lawyer and negotiate your salary?
  • Strategies for establishing equal development opportunities for both men and women
  • Examples of successful policies that move the needle on the wage gap
  • Increasing salary transparency and reevaluating pay models
  • How can the legal sector work together to eliminate the wage gap?

Michelle Henry

Partner, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

Rebecca Bromwich

Manager, Diversity and Inclusion, Gowling

3:15 pm

Afternoon coffee break

3:45 pm

Panel discussion: Executing diversity and inclusion strategies that attract and retain female talent

Achieving a healthy representation of women in leadership positions is dependent on a supportive industry throughout a woman’s career. How can firms and organizations attract more female talent? What does a successful inclusion program look like in action? How can the industry empower women from the start of their careers? In this session, hear from leading firms and organizations about how they have actioned reform and their strategies for recruiting and retaining women from day one.

  • Tools to implement a successful diversity and inclusion program
  • Effective strategies to attract, engage and retain women in the industry
  • Key learnings from successful diversity and inclusion programs: what impact have these had on recruitment, culture and profits?
  • How to foster the next generation of female lawyers
  • Steps you and your organization can take tomorrow to action diversity and inclusion strategies

Nikki Gershbain

Chief Inclusion Officer, McCarthy Tétrault

Charlene Theodore

In-house legal Counsel, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Assoication

Rose Leto

Partner, Neinstein

Patience Omokhodion

Partner, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP

4:40 pm

Closing remarks

4:45 pm

Drinks reception


Women’s Law Association of Ontario
1 Toronto Street, Suite 900
Toronto, ON M5C 2V6



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