Anne Stewart

Drawing on her own experience, lawyer Anne Stewart spearheaded the Leaders in Transition program to help senior female executives move to the next stage of their lives

In early 2014, Anne Stewart, then a partner at law firm Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, was feeling some angst. Approaching 65, the mandatory retirement age at her workplace, Stewart wasn’t quite ready to move away from her nearly four-decade career in corporate and commercial law. She noticed that women like her had nowhere to turn for guidance. “We were really the first generation [of women] that devoted ourselves to career,” Stewart observes, “and we didn’t have a lot of people to look to and say, ‘What do we do now?’”

 Stewart was vice-chair of the Minerva Foundation for BC Women, which delivers a range of leadership and mentorship programs. After suggesting the idea to the board, she worked with others to design Leaders in Transition, a six-month course aimed at women aged 55 and older.

In September 2014, Stewart was part of the first cohort of about 20 women, who met for a full day once a month for half a year. Guest speakers joined them to discuss topics including finances, health and the process of transition from a full-time career to other meaningful endeavours. “The main thing is to take the time to figure out what you’re good at,” Stewart says. “What are your strengths, and what do you like to do? Because you should be choosing what you want.”

Still early in her own retirement, which began last December, Stewart has kept working for three clients, travelled to Southeast Asia, and accepted an appointment on the board of a public corporation. Leaders in Transition continues, with the third cohort of 11 women now in session.

Stewart says for her, the most helpful part of the program was the peer mentoring among the women who participated. “We’ve become good friends,” she says. “We shared really intimate, scary thoughts with each other and really bonded. It was a nice combination of women, all with something to give each other.”