International Women’s Day 2024

March 7, 2024

March 8, 2024 is International Women’s Day, a day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and girls around the world. This year’s theme, Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress, reinforces the importance of creating opportunities for the advancement, recognition and mentorship of women to drive change and break down gender barriers. When women are supported and advocated for, especially by each other, it makes a significant difference in their careers, confidence and goals.

As we continue to work towards a more inclusive legal community, we are pleased to acknowledge that for the first time in the Law Society of Alberta’s history, our 24-member Board (also known as Benchers) is comprised of a majority of women. Leading the Board as our new President is Deanna Steblyk, KC, who will be the Law Society’s seventh woman President in 117 years.

“I’m incredibly proud to be the seventh woman to hold the role of President of the Law Society of Alberta since its founding in 1907,” says Deanna. “My predecessors – Phyllis Smith, KC, Madam Justice Barbara Romaine, Cheryl Gottselig, KC, Mona Duckett, KC, Madam Justice Anne Kirker and Darlene Scott, KC – are some of the most influential and accomplished female members of the bar in Alberta, and I’m humbled to be among them. I draw inspiration from the precedent they set for all women lawyers and can only hope that I live up to their legacy as I begin my term. Thank you to them, and to all the female Benchers past and present who have set and continue to set a shining example for the rest of us, and those who come after us. They model the inclusion of women in the legal profession and its leadership.”

Increased visibility of women in leadership positions inspire other women who are considering a similar path. The ripple effect from building on one another’s successes and uplifting fellow women helps to contribute towards a more equitable society for all.

The Honourable Ritu Khullar, Chief Justice of Alberta, attributes much of her own success to those who invested in her throughout her career journey. “There have been so many people who have given me opportunities and supported me in many different ways”, she says. “I see certain themes in how lawyers have helped me in my practice, which include:

  • Giving me opportunities – you make the argument; you handle the file; you take the interview.
  • Giving me practical advice on juggling motherhood and practising law – instead of working all weekend in a crunch, take a full day to be with your family, and then work hard on the other day. Both work and my family were better for it.
  • Giving me practical support – volunteering their daughter to babysit my children so I could work on a pro bono national women’s legal project.
  • Spending time inspiring, encouraging, supporting and being there for me when I needed it.

On the Bench, my judicial colleagues continue to support and encourage me in so many ways (though thankfully I am no longer juggling childcare issues). I am grateful to all the people who saw something in me and took the interest and time to invest in me. I would not be here without any of them. The most important lesson I have learned is to do the same for others. And, throughout my career, I have tried to support other young lawyers, especially young women lawyers.”


Below are some more testimonials from women in the legal community who were championed or supported by another lawyer at some point during their career, demonstrating the lasting impact these interactions have.

“I’ve been supported and championed by various women in the legal profession who have provided me with opportunities to sit on committees, boards, panels, be a guest lecturer or take a role on a file. These women don’t keep these opportunities to themselves. They consciously thought about including other women in the profession in an effort to make our profession more diverse and representative. These women did not pull the ladder up as they climbed. They know we rise by lifting others.” – Kanchana Fernando

“I was called to the bar four months pregnant. A month later, two partners left my firm to join another, and I was caught in the unpleasant situation of preparing to go on leave while my work situation was on the verge of imploding. The female partner that left reached out and offered me something I will never forget – job security. She convinced the new firm to hire me too, so that somehow, I stepped into my dream job while six months pregnant.” – Anonymous

“Many wonderful lawyers have encouraged and supported me. Several of these lawyers were women in practice, senior to me, and some now serve from the Bench, or in other senior roles, and I value each of them immensely. They have encouraged me to be in private practice, own my own firm, network with others, prioritize family and friends, volunteer within and outside our profession, and give back what I can. I hope to share this encouragement with others!” – M. Jenny McMordie, KC

“I am so grateful to a Justice who has both supported and championed me. Because of this Justice, I have had the opportunity to teach at the preeminent national conference in my practice area for 10 years. This opportunity has allowed me to meet colleagues from across Canada and develop many new friendships and connections. This Justice’s support of me has allowed me to achieve more in my career than I ever expected.” – Anonymous

“I have been championed by fellow women in the legal profession whose generosity with their time, advice and support is the only reason I am able to thrive in a profession that is still riddled with gender bias. This includes a Justice who always took time to mentor me. She shared a personal experience with me that validated a tough time I was having in my articles and motivated me to keep pushing. As well, a former Crown/Justice whose essay to women in law I keep on the wall of my office.” – Anonymous

“When I joined the legal profession in the 80’s, mentorship didn’t exist. Women lawyers were still proving they could do whatever male lawyers could do and mentoring junior women wasn’t on anyone’s to do list. But I met wonderful lawyers, male and female, who offered friendship, kindness and guidance. Learning about mentorship later, I wondered how mentorship could have developed my career but instead of having regrets, I mentor young lawyers of all genders out of gratitude that I got to where I am.” – Loraine Champion, Executive Director, Alberta Lawyers’ Assistance Society

Further Resources

For more information and insights, view the below resources, organizations and events relating to International Women’s Day: