Success can be credited to many different things. High-profile Toronto-based defence lawyer Marie Henein credits her success to her mother’s mantra.
“I grew up being told you are no different from a man,” Henein said in an interview with BNN. “To this day, my mother says that.”
Henein has taken that mantra bestowed by her Middle-Eastern mother and turned it into relentless drive and ambition.
“You would never ask a man, ‘How do you do it? How are you a father and a lawyer?’, as though they are mutually exclusive events,” Henein said in explaining a higher burden that is placed on women.
Henein has attracted controversy through the high-profile clients she has defended like former Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant and former CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi.
While she has faced criticism for taking on those cases, she says that comes with the job. “It doesn’t bother me, it comes late in my career,” she said. “It’s neither here nor there to me”
She does, however, believe that some of the criticism stems from a double standard about the kind of success women are allowed to have.
“There is unequivocally a double standard. … Look at Hillary Clinton. She is extraordinarily accomplished but the complaint is that she’s not relatable, she’s not cuddly,” said Henein, “Those kind of complaints suggest to me that they know nothing about what it takes for a woman to succeed in the way she has.”
Henein believes the pressure young women face is crippling and society would be better off if it were removed.
“Allow these, particularly young girls, to just breathe and be allowed to dream and be allowed to aspire without struggling and thinking that somehow makes them a bad person, or bad wife or bad mother…because they’re not.”