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When Rachel Wong and Istiana Bestari met as recent university graduates looking for jobs in Toronto, they bonded over their mutual dislike of networking in the city.

As women of colour, Ms. Wong and Ms. Bestari were both disheartened by the mostly white, affluent, male-dominated world of Toronto networking events circa 2017.

“It’s uncomfortable, awkward and exhausting,” says Ms. Wong of trying to establish professional connections in a homogenous professional environment with no relatable mentors.

So, the two friends founded Monday Girl Social Club, a career platform for women in Canada that aims to connect like-minded individuals and close the network gap.

According to LinkedIn, the network gap is the advantage some people have based on factors outside of their skill or education level. These factors, which can include attending a well-ranked university, living in an affluent neighbourhood or having a high socio-economic status, can give some people twelve times the opportunity in the working world.

In creating Monday Girl, the founders aimed to foster a diverse community of women and people of marginalized genders, addressing a networking gap they say often leaves these groups feeling lost in a boys’ club.

“Through our newsletter, our podcast, our events, everyone was telling same story over and over: Starting your career just feels like a total struggle in the dark,” Ms. Bestari says.

Monday Girl Social Club members make connections at a pre-pandemic event in Toronto.Supplied

Not only was finding a female or BIPOC mentor a challenge for many of these women, but they also felt the advice they were being given wasn’t applicable to them.

“We were excited to start a social club, and addressing that diversity piece was one of our key pillars,” Ms. Bestari says.

“When we were looking for mentors to add to our roster, we had to ensure that it really reflected the young women of the Canadian landscape who are trying to up-level their careers,” adds Ms. Wong. She points to Zoey Mackenzie, director of strategic partnerships at Heirlume, as an example of the prominent mentors who came on board.

Now, Monday Girl has grown into a community of more than 5,000 members, with a blunt tagline on their website that reads: “Screw networking. This is better.” Member perks include a weekly newsletter, one-on-one coffee chats, access to a members-only Slack group, a digital resource library, résumé and LinkedIn coaching workshops and the ongoing Tastemakers series of talks hosted by prominent women.

The group’s podcast, TGIM: Thank God It’s Monday, is co-hosted by Monday Girl editorial director Monica Scaglione and digital director Nicole Bento. It features interviews with dynamic women about everything from their morning routine to overcoming adversity.

“We want people to look forward to Mondays,” says Ms. Scaglione. “We want to change the narrative, something we’re prioritizing that past generations did not.”

With nearly 20 events under their belt pre-pandemic, the team at Monday Girl is currently planning an in-person summit event in 2022 for new and existing members.

Ms. Wong sees the work of Monday Girl as integral to establishing a new path for young women starting their careers. “We’re addressing that imposter syndrome, because people deserve to feel super confident and empowered,” she says.

“Monday Girl is the platform we wish we had when we started our careers.”

Ask Women and Work

Have a question about your work life? E-mail us at GWC@globeandmail.com.

Question: Ever since the move to remote work, my employer has loaded on the virtual meetings. It’s as if my supervisor feels he needs to keep tabs on all of us at all times. And half the time, he just wants to shoot the breeze and gab about current events, pop culture, etc., which is just a waste of time. The truth is that all these meetings are getting in the way of us getting our work done. How can we make it stop?

We asked Bernadette Lonergan, president of organizational development/human resources consulting practice LCI Group in Mississauga, Ont., to answer this one:

This is a timely question. Endless virtual meetings are a serious problem, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. Unproductive meetings are nothing new, but now they can consume our entire workday. Virtual meeting fatigue is real.

Don’t feel uncomfortable approaching your supervisor about this. After all, he is there to get the work done too. He’s probably fallen into the trap of scheduling a meeting for everything. Maybe he is checking up on you, but more likely he’s missing the social side of work – those moments that broke up our days and gave us a laugh or a pause. And we still need that. Having a conversation around how to make meetings work and still have time to get the job done is critical.

Here are some ideas to reframe the issue as a common cause:

  • Don’t throw out those lighter virtual moments. Suggest an alternative like a regular catch-up meeting. A daily 15-minute huddle can get a lot of things out of the way including the social stuff. Focus on fun updates, quick status reports and pressing issues. Take turns hosting it.
  • Use the power of your team. Collaborate on a set of meeting norms, such as no-meeting periods and when to use other collaboration tools. Bring it forward as a team initiative.
  • Evidence and standards help. Many companies have ground rules that support more effective meetings and even when not to meet. Maybe yours does too. And be clear with your supervisor on how many hours are actually being taken up by meetings instead of your priorities.

It’s not really that different from politely saying, “Can we talk later? I’ve got to get this done,” when someone dropped by to chat in the pre-pandemic days. You’re just claiming the space you need to do the real work of your role – and that’s good for everyone.

Interested in more perspectives about women in the workplace? Find all stories on the hub here, and subscribe to the new Women and Work newsletter here. Have feedback on the series? E-mail us at GWC@globeandmail.com.