Advancement of women lawyers

Our Advancement of Women Lawyers initiative focuses on implementing targeted and tailored strategies to enable Osler to retain women lawyers, promote women associates to partner and advance women partners into leadership positions within the firm. We also look to identify and dismantle systems within the firm that hinder inclusion.

Our Partnership Board has determined that the advancement of a greater percentage of women into our partnership is a strategic priority for the firm, with the overall objective of greater gender parity. In support of this goal, significant resources have been committed to a multi-faceted program that includes mentoring, coaching and training, among other things. This strategic objective is being led by a task force headed by our Co-Chair, Dale Ponder.

Osler Women Lawyers’ Network (OWLN)

The Osler Women Lawyers’ Network was created by and for members of the Osler community to encourage and support the advancement of women through social and networking events, informal mentoring and coaching, pro bono and volunteer initiatives, business development opportunities and new recruitment programs. We strive to provide women lawyers at the firm with the tools and resources they need to be successful.

Martha Martindale

“One of the ways the partners described Osler’s culture to me when I was considering joining the firm was through the legacy of women lawyers who have held leadership positions over many years.

At the time, I didn’t think it mattered, but found to my surprise that it does make a difference. It seems easier for women to attain roles such as practice group lead or other leadership roles within the firm when there is a precedent and when other lawyers in the firm are also accustomed to seeing that. For women who are interested in taking on a leadership role, there is a clear path forward.

I think the annual Osler Women’s Event is very valuable because it is purely about enabling all the women lawyers to come together as a community and share their experiences. What I most appreciate is that the event is really a mentorship opportunity – one in which I can speak candidly with our associates about any of the challenges they may be facing in their practices and help them.”

Martha Martindale
Partner, Financial Services

Removing obstacles to success

We understand that working parents have enormous responsibilities and must constantly juggle both work and homelife. The firm has introduced a suite of flexibility options designed to support an inclusive workforce as well as promote balance between career and family demands.

Pregnancy/Parental Leave Buddy Program for associates: Both women and men receive guidance and support before, during and after maternity or paternity leave to help them stay connected to Osler activities and assist in the transition back to full-time practice.

Pregnancy/Parental Leave Benefits for associates: In most situations, provided certain conditions are met, the firm will top up the lawyer’s pregnancy leave benefits for up to 17 weeks. In addition to pregnancy leave benefits, the firm will top up the parental leave benefits for birth mothers for up to four weeks for a total of 21 weeks. For non-birth parents of new children or parents of adopted children who take parental/adoption leave, the firm provides the equivalent of the lawyer’s salary for up to four weeks.

Alternate Track Policy: Osler’s non-partnership career advancement track offers greater flexibility and work-life balance to our lawyers with family or other external commitments.

Pregnancy Leave Benefits for staff and paraprofessionals: The firm will top up the employee’s pregnancy leave benefits for up to six weeks, provided certain conditions are met.

Women in senior leadership roles

  • Osler was the first large corporate law firm in Canada to admit a woman as a partner, Bertha Wilson, who went on to become the first female Justice appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Over the decades, Osler’s female leadership has been integral to shaping the firm we are today.
  • Osler has been a long-time member of the 30% club. The Partnership Board of Osler (equivalent to a company’s board of directors) has set the mandate that at least 30% of members be women. Currently, 5 of the 13 members of the Partnership Board are women.
  • The Partnership Board has also put in place a guideline that women comprise at least 30% of the partners that sit on the Compensation Committee. This is important representation and assists in avoiding gender-based unconscious bias in the important discussions that surround compensation.
  • Osler’s current leadership team includes Dale Ponder, who is Osler’s first female National Co-Chair. Dale assumed this role in 2017 after more than eight years as Osler’s first National Managing Partner and Chief Executive. Eight years prior to that she was our National Co-Managing Partner. 
  • We have five Office Managing Partners, two of whom are outstanding women – Sandra Abitan in Montréal and Donna White in Ottawa. Our Calgary office was previously managed by Maureen Killoran, one of our most senior litigation partners nationally.
  • A number of the firm’s departments and practice groups are managed by women, including two national departments that are among the firm’s largest business lines – Sonia Bjorkquist chairs our National Litigation Department, while Monica Biringer co-leads our National Tax Practice. Janice Buckingham has been in charge of our Energy/Oil & Gas specialty group for many years. Andraya Frith runs our Franchise & Distribution Practice, Wendy Gross heads our Technology & Outsourcing Practice, Jacqui Code chairs the Research Practice, Andrea Boctor chairs our Pensions & Benefits group and Shuli Rodal leads our Competition & Antitrust practice and also chairs Osler’s Diversity Committee.