Bay Ryley is a an employment and human rights lawyer and the founder of Ryley Learning, a digital eLearning company with a focus on corporate sexual harassment training. As featured in Be the Next Her: A modern-day career blog for women, by women.
What is your morning routine?
Lots of domestic stuff. Make smoothies and lunches. Feed the dog. Get my kids to where they need to be. Try to leave the kitchen in a state that won’t make us cry when we return home at the end of the day. My ten-year-old son actually has the most extensive morning routine of anyone in our household, (though my teenaged daughter is gaining ground) Lots of hair gel involved.
Tell us about your career path
I am a lawyer, writer and (more recently) an entrepreneur. My career path has been tortuous but interesting. Initially I wanted to be an academic or an editor, but I feared there were limited job opportunities in academe and publishing. However, out of my dabbling in those fields came the publication of a book (Gold Diggers of the Klondike) on the regulation of prostitution during the Yukon gold rush. After articling at a large Bay Street firm (BLG), I worked on two fascinating public inquiries (Walkerton contaminated drinking water and Toronto computer leasing). Then came several years of legal practice in the public sector (eg. Constitutional law branch; Human Rights Commission; College of Physicians & Surgeons). After working for large organizations, it was empowering to start my own employment and human right law practice. I’ve since launched Ryley Learning, a digital eLearning company with a focus on corporate sexual harassment training.
What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
I have one foot in legal practice and the other in a new business. Both are tough in different ways. Women and others from underrepresented groups are often undervalued by others, are paid less, and may set their prices too low. The concept of “pin money” still exists – the idea that a woman’s compensation isn’t that important because surely she has a rich husband or father. I asked a woman boss for a raise once and she said “Why? Do you want to buy a new pair of shoes?” “People” presume that being a parent impairs women’s career potential. Being a parent is a huge responsibility yet is a huge motivating factor to succeed. That’s very powerful.
What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
I was going to answer “girl-style” and say “gosh who would want to be me?!” But I won’t. I am a true believer in the value of education. I feel very lucky that I have three degrees (BA and MA in history, plus law) that were earned before tuition in Canada skyrocketed. I have a strong bias towards liberal arts and humanities, and I think no one’s cooler to me than someone who majored in English literature! I recommend reading (and viewing) widely. Don’t eschew technology but understand its impact on our lives, for better and worse. Think creatively, meet lots of people, and stay in touch with old friends. Pray that you can monetize some of your strengths and abilities so you can support yourself and your family and thrive.
How do you separate work life from your personal life?
I have a shared space office, and try to work there as much as I can for structure. Plus, it’s hard to sound professional on a sales call from your kitchen, when there are dogs barking and neighbours knocking in the background. As hard as I try to separate them, my work and personal life are quite integrated at times. On the weekend I do virtually no work (other than thinking and strategizing) and rarely look at my phone.
What inspires you?
Children, wilderness, water, visual art, brilliant writers, and incisive stand-up and sketch comedy.
When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?
I like really good coffee, tea, and kombucha. I enjoy going to farmers’ markets and making extravagant purchases of wacky types of kefir, greens, and foraged things. Taking time for spinning, karate and skiing is a luxury and a necessity for me. I love coaching kids’ hockey and baseball.