Class of 1976

Unlike some of my classmates, my motivation for going to law school was not particularly high minded; I didn't wanted to be a teacher or a nurse, wasn't good at math, and thought I was smart enough to do what my older brother had done. So I applied and got in. I had also taken U of T's first women's history course in 1971-1972 with Jill Conway and Natalie Davis; they were role models for the feminists of the day. Another role model was my mother who had been one of the early women in architecture and engineering at U of T in the 1940s. So I was used to the idea that women could go anywhere they had the brains and desire to go.

A memorable moment from law school was being told that the women students weren't 'real women' by some classmates.

My career took me to in-house counsel work in the life insurance industry as I knew that I wanted to have a family. I did not find being a woman a barrier in my career. Early on, I was treated as a curiosity at work by the occasional person; some reactions were very funny.  It was important to approach many situations with humour and an understanding that working with a professional woman was new to these men. They just had to be taught that they could do it and that it wouldn't hurt. One had to be professional but demonstrate a sense of humour (occasionally bawdy), and also a willingness to speak bluntly and, as needed, use the odd 'bad word'.

I think part of my success has been not overly focusing on being a woman in law but on doing my best professionally. I have always approached my colleagues of whatever rank with respect, and expected the same back from them, and generally I have received it.

I have found law a great profession. It was always interesting and a vehicle to take one in many directions. I did combine my in-house career with a family of four children. I was able to work part time for a number of years when my children were small and I found support for doing this in several companies. I have also found my experiences as a mother useful in managing people over the years, and in being able to read a situation, and handle it accordingly.