Reva Seth, author of The Momshift

Hitting the motherlode

Former lawyer Reva Seth proves that motherhood isn't the career-killer it used to be
Former lawyer Reva Seth proves that motherhood isn't the career-killer it used to be

Can you be a successful professional and a great mom? Lawyer-turned-author Reva Seth thinks so. The Toronto-based mother of three found major success after having kids and was pretty sure other professional women were thriving too. The trouble was, she only saw examples of CEOs and celebrities pulling it off. “Women are looking for more relatable role models,” she says. So she went looking for them. In 2009, Seth began talking to working moms across North America.

Five hundred interviews later, she’s releasing her book The MomShift (Random House), based on her conversations with working mothers who have found creative ways to navigate work-life challenges, like deciding when to have a baby, staying on the corporate ladder, balancing home life and managing money.

The 2002 call, who went to Western for law school and articled at what was then Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, interviewed over a dozen lawyers for the book and devotes a special section to working mothers in the field. “I think it’s the best time ever to be a female lawyer,” she says. (She also zeros in on academia, medicine, the tech sector and middle management.)

Seth profiles lawyers like Kristin Taylor, a partner at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP and mother of two who points out that clients don’t care whether she’s in the office or working from home, so long as she’s responsive and helpful.

Tara Piurko, a partner at McCarthy Tétrault LLP, kept in touch with her firm while on mat leave by using its mentor program. Her mentor, a male partner with no kids, helped her stay in the loop.

Seth admits women abandoning private practice is a problem — leaving them underrepresented in partner positions — but shows these women thriving elsewhere. That includes mother of three Catherine McKenna, who co-founded Canadian Lawyers Abroad on her first mat leave and eventually left private practice to run the organization full time.

Overall, Seth discovered that women found that parenthood galvanized their career focus and made them more time efficient. Increasingly progressive attitudes in the workforce that allow for flex time and days off for sick kids are helping too.

As for law, she thinks women are beginning to flourish in the profession. “There’s a lot of good news for women in the law. The numbers on Bay Street are still not fantastic. But I think it’s time we expanded the conversation beyond just what’s happening on Bay Street.”