Women Lawyers Forum Education Day – “Defining Moments – Leadership & Ethics”

Date: Friday, May 14, 2010
Time: 8:30 am to 1:30 pm

I am excited to be able to participate in this year’s CBA BC Branch Women Lawyers Forum Education Day event. Along with Elizabeth Watson and Stacey Handley, I will participate on a leadership panel which will be led by Marion McAdam of Fourth Wall Project Management & Consulting. Marion has worked extensively with women who are leaders already or who are aspiring to become one within their own context. In conjunction with this, she has also done a considerable amount of research on emerging and changing trends in women’s leadership.

I have been tentatively asked to speak to “defining success for yourself and making it happen.” My personal conception of what success is and my level of achievement in that regard are both rather fluid concepts, so this should be an interesting exercise.

I am particularly interested in the quotes contained in the draft discussion materials prepared by Marion McAdam, some of which I include here:

“Success has been defined by men all these years as movement high up the ladder. Women have to define success differently. It isn’t necessary to be the top person to be successful…Success is having work in your field that permits you to have a life as well. … A woman’s life is a horizontal journey rather than a vertical climb.”

“Women At Law: Lesson Learned Along the Pathways to Success” Phyllis Horn Epstein

Trying to act like men in the workplace creates a kind of dissonance. We can sense when people are not acting authentically and we don’t trust them. “Women bring a unique set of behaviours to the workplace that are needed, especially in today’s climate. Our tendencies to collaborate rather than compete, listen more than talk, and use relationships rather than muscle to influence are the very same behaviours I coach men to acquire. But it’s all about balance. Just as men can overuse their stereotypical characteristics, so can women.” (p. 62 Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office)

“In order to be effective leaders, women need to be comfortable practicing law as women – in their own way. Women don’t need to practice law the same way that men do in order to be successful.”

It should be an interesting discussion!


  1. Phyllis Epstein

    This sounds like a fascinating conference. I wish you all the best. In a job satisfaction survey I recently conducted of over 550 women attorneys in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area I concluded that the happiest women attorneys are those who can combine in their work, the conditions of flexibility, control and predictability. This probably comes as no surprise. Phyllis Horn Epstein

  2. I’d be surprised if men aren’t also looking for those qualities in their work as well – perhaps we’ll see some cultural shifts if/when women are able to effect the changes they need to continue to practice.