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Anne Stewart knows what she needs to do to get the job done. In her professional life as well as in her community, Anne has an acute sense of the needs around her and takes the initiative to fill in where she’s needed most.

It is no wonder that Anne – a Partner with Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP (Blakes) in Vancouver – has been recognized numerous times for her successes as a top lawyer and one of the most powerful women in Canada. Along with a demanding career, she manages to keep a finger on the pulse of her community. Case in point, several years ago Anne noticed that many women were suffering behind the scenes due to marriage failure, being new to Canada, or having outdated skills after taking time to raise a family. She saw that these women needed to but couldn’t get back into the professional or executive workforce. And so she did something about it. It was Anne’s experience with a friend who was struggling to get back into the workforce after a hiatus that led to the creation of the Minerva Helping Women Work™ program. Anne has been an invaluable support to Minerva since day one. Her donation was among the first to get Minerva up and running and she has been deeply committed to the organization ever since. She sat on the Board of Directors for eight years and was Vice Chair for several years and is currently a member of the Governance Committee and Patrons Circle. Most recently, Anne has been the voice behind Minerva’s latest development – Leaders in Transition – a new, unique program that supports women 50 years and older transition into “retirement” and plan for their next meaningful chapter in life. It is this program, she believes, that will fill another missing gap in our society. We sat down with Anne where she shared her passion for Leaders in Transition, the power of mentorship and some of the values she lives by.

Q: Why do we need a program like Leaders in Transition?

A: The transition into “retirement” is a huge social issue. There is this idea in our society that someone can be completely productive one day and then just “retire” which is not good for society or for the individual. What if you’re in the prime of your career at 60 or 65 or want to keep working and be involved and productive? What do people like this do? We are missing out on an amazing resource of people who are highly skilled and have much to offer.

Q: Blakes is a big supporter of Leaders in Transition. Can you tell us why?

A: As a firm, Blakes recognizes that this is an important issue. A program like Leaders in Transition that prepares the individual for retirement is good for the individual, the firm and society. It’s a win/win – leave on good terms such that the individual will be willing to help out when information or other help is needed six months or a year later. Historically this hasn’t been done very well in Canada. Companies are losing valuable contacts and information through retiring employees.

“Just think about it for yourself: What if all of this was gone tomorrow and you hadn’t prepared for it? How would you feel?”

Q: Why are you participating in Leaders in Transition?

A: You don’t want to wait until you’ve retired before you start thinking about this! We are the first wave of women who have devoted ourselves this extensively to our careers and we don’t have role models to look to for guidance to help us prepare for retirement. It’s scary to go from operating more than 100% to considering what it would be like to wake up one day with no reason to wake up. I’d be bored out of my mind. Just think about it for yourself: What if all of this was gone tomorrow and you hadn’t prepared for it? How would you feel? It takes people being really honest with themselves on what they want and need to develop a good plan. Women are so honest with each other and I think that’s one of the things that will make this program successful. I’m really excited about Leaders in Transition.

Q: Mentorship was part of your initial design of the Minerva Helping Women Work program, and is still a major aspect of many Minerva programs. Can you speak to the value of mentorship?

A: It’s huge. I don’t think you can make it on your own. Your mentors challenge you, teach you, direct you – they are your champions. Seek out the people that will help you. I know my life would have been totally different without three people who mentored me – Lucille Johnstone, David Hossie and John Pearson.

Leaders in Transition begins in September! 

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Thank you, Blakes Lawyers, for your support of Leaders in Transition and for your ongoing support of the Minerva Foundation over the years.

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