Diversity depends on leadership

Law firm chief diversity officer looks at challenges, benefits of her role
By Lisa Vogt
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/23/2013

In January, McCarthy Tétrault became the first Canadian law firm to appoint a chief diversity officer (CDO) when I took on the role. And while this was a milestone for the firm, its diversity initiatives began much earlier.

In 1921, McCarthy Tétrault hired Edith Sheppard, becoming one of the first law firms in Canada to hire a woman lawyer. At a time when 99 per cent of law school graduates were men, and women had won the right to vote in federal elections only three years earlier, Sheppard began a tradition for the firm of investing in talent and investing in women.

Almost 10 years ago, Catalyst Canada was engaged to map the firm’s demographics and prepare a gender pipeline for the advancement of women lawyers. The study confirmed McCarthy Tétrault was like most of corporate Canada — “male, pale and stale.” It’s trite but not wholly inaccurate.