Women Worth Watching 2015

Alex Johnston

Catalyst Canada’s Executive Director Is an Advocate for Women Everywhere


web catalyst_johnstonAs leader of the Catalyst Canada office, Alex Johnston is responsible for shaping a strategy for Catalyst’s continued growth and member engagement in that country.

Before joining Catalyst, Alex accumulated more than a decade of leadership experience in the public and private sectors. She practiced corporate law at Goodmans LLP in Toronto before joining the office of Ontario’s Premier in 2003, where she served as Executive Director of Policy. In this role, she worked closely with policy, community, and business leaders, as well as senior members of government, to develop, implement, and communicate the government’s agenda. She also played a key role in advancing a progressive women’s agenda during her tenure at Goodmans LLP by working on initiatives to support women’s economic independence and health.

“The most important quality of any leader is integrity.”

A long-time advocate for women, Alex was a founding member of the first student-run sexual assault center in Canada, served as a legal advisor at a shelter for women and children, and, after living in China for two years, began graduate studies on Chinese women’s legal rights and their experience with the justice system.

“This is a beautiful time to be advocating for women and inclusion,” said Alex.

A member of the board of directors for Desjardins General Insurance Group, the board of trustees for the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, and the advisory board for the Women’s College Hospital Institute for Health Systems Solutions and Virtual Care, she speaks French and English fluently and holds a BA, LLB, and BCL from McGill University. Born in Montreal, Alex now lives in Toronto, where she and her husband are raising their three young children.

Education: BA in History and BCL/LLB from McGill University.

First Job: Lawyer

What I’m Reading: “Two Days in June” by Andrew Cohen and “Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial” by Kenji Yoshino.

The most important quality a woman leader should have is…

…integrity, the most important quality of any leader.

The career advice I’d give my former self:

Don’t worry about your intensity. You’re going to get way funnier with age. And stop swearing so much at work.

Words I live by:

There is so much in life you don’t control. Just keep trying to make good choices.

The one thing I’d do differently in my career, knowing what I know now, is…

…to advocate effectively for myself and not assume others will do it for me.

When I really need to focus on a project, I…

…work somewhere with a healthy dose of background noise to help me focus (probably a product of growing up in a home with two parents, four sisters, and a dog).

My biggest career leap (and what I learned from it) was…

…the idea of change is often a heck of a lot scarier than the reality of change.

Being a woman in my profession has been…

…great. This is a beautiful time to be advocating for women and inclusion.

I’ve learned that failure is…

…at times unavoidable, so pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and figure out what you’ll do differently next time.

I maintain a healthy personal life by…

…investing in my relationships, starting with my husband and three young kids; embracing my middle-aged lady jogger self; and laughing often.

I knew my present career was what I wanted to do when…

…I found my voice as a young feminist in university.