Yellowknife lawyer recognized for her leadership in the profession

The WXN awards were established to recognize woman who have made a difference in their communities, and who inspire others.

Sheila MacPherson named among Canada's 100 'most powerful women'

Sheila MacPherson (right) with her daughter Shiri at the WXN Top 100 awards gala in Toronto. (Submitted by Sheila MacPherson)

Yellowknife lawyer Sheila MacPherson received a prestigious honour Thursday.

She was named one of Canada's most powerful women by the Women's Executive Network (WXN).

The WXN awards were created to recognize the achievements and leadership of women in Canada. MacPherson was recognized for her more than 30 years of experience as a leader in the North.

Raised in Inuvik and Iqaluit, she calls Yellowknife home. MacPherson said she was honoured and humbled by the award.

She sees power in terms of what she can do for others.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

What does it mean to be named among Canada's most powerful women?

I'm quite humbled and, quite frankly, I don't think of myself in that way. I was fortunate enough to be nominated by a couple of amazing women within my firm.

What does being a powerful woman mean to you?

To me, power is not about the exercise of it for individual or personal use, but the exercise of it for the benefit and support of all women. And that's actually what this award is about. A strong woman speaks up for herself. The powerful woman speaks up for others, and supports others. that's what it means to me.

The Top 100 winners at the WXN awards gala in Toronto. (Connie Tsang/Women's Executive Network)

Did you face challenges as a woman in law?

The legal profession is a hard profession and it demands a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of oneself. And it's very difficult to do that and to juggle other areas of one's life — family life for example, being a mom, being a wife, being somebody who's active in the community.

I was the first female partner in our law firm when I was made a partner in '92. We'd never had a female partner before. Some of the challenges there were negotiating things in the partnership agreement that we would now consider no-brainers, things such as maternity leave.

What challenges remain today for law in the North?

There's a stunning lack of representation of Indigenous people at all levels within our justice system.

The older I get, the more disturbed I am about the lack of progress that we've made in this area. While we have Indigenous lawyers, we don't have enough in leadership roles.

While we've made terrific [progress] in the area of women's advancement, we have a long, long way to go with respect to the role of Indigenous people within our justice system.

If we look at our justice system as being how we as a society resolve disputes among its members, the only way it can have legitimacy is if it reflects the population that it serves.

I profoundly believe that we have more to do in that area.

I hope that one day we'll have a judiciary that's much more reflective of the people we serve.