Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin told a legal conference in Calgary that matters have improved from when she was growing up on a ranch near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.
She said an aptitude test in Grade 8 indicated she had a low attention level and she was warned to stay away from being a waitress or a telephone operator.
McLachlin is now the longest-serving chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
She said Canada is a long way from total gender equality, even though more women are entering the law profession or moving into federal politics.
McLachlin said many people still assume women are not quite at the same level as men.