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You can bang the drum and be the squeakiest wheel, but it's exhausting to be doing that 24-7 when you're the only one doing it.gorodenkoff/Getty Images

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Ask Women and Work

Question: I’m the only woman in my workplace. While I’ve tried my best to fit in, I’m don’t feel like I’m treated the same as everyone else. I’m not called on during meetings and rarely consulted on decisions unless I insert myself into conversations. It’s a male-dominated industry and it’s starting to turn me off my career choice. How can I handle this the right way to get things to change?

We asked Rebecca Cohen-Palacios, technical UI artist at video game studio Hinterland and co-founder of Montreal-based Pixelles, to tackle this one:

This is a really tough, draining position to be in and I can definitely relate. I’ve asked myself multiple times in my career, ‘Is this a good place to be?’ Ultimately I love what I do, so I decided to push forward. But changing the dominant culture from the bottom up is really difficult.

Employees tend to model their managers in order to fit in, and if people with power aren’t modelling inclusiveness and calling out discrimination, it’s difficult to remain optimistic about where you’re working. You can bang the drum and be the squeakiest wheel, but it’s exhausting to be doing that 24-7 when you’re the only one doing it.

I think the first thing you should do is be honest with yourself about your workplace. Do you really, really love the work? Is it burning you out being in that culture when you’re constantly pushing back and feeling excluded? Is there anyone else doing tangible work to change the culture to include women and other marginalized people beyond lip service? If not, maybe it’s time to ask yourself: Am I in a position to change companies? You’re there 40 hours a week, and you deserve some place that appreciates all of you.

If you aren’t in the position to change jobs, do you feel safe enough going to your manager? Are they the type to believe you and take action? It generally helps to have documentation when you’re going to your manager in order to demonstrate consistent exclusionary practices that are happening, and you can leverage this documentation to potentially change things. Another thing you can do is look around to see if there are any allies with privilege that can give you a platform during meetings and decision-making moments.

One thing to keep in mind: Preserve your energy and well-being. Maybe you can change just one corner of your workplace, one key person, instead of trying to change it all at once – get the momentum going slowly and hopefully that ripples out in the long term. It’s also okay to take a break from being the squeaky wheel and come back later. Sometimes you have to recoup or prioritize yourself in order to come back later reinvigorated.

Joining support groups outside the workplace can be a really good move. Having a safe place to vent with people who can relate to the situations you’re going through is super restorative. It’s a place for advice and where other women can recommend companies with a healthier culture. If you want to change the industry at a systemic level, you can join these support groups and help mentor younger generations, do consultation work on inclusive practices or participate in programs like knowledge-sharing. The best place to find these kinds of groups is online, or there might be a local group where you can have that physical connection as well.

If there are any women in game development reading my answers, they’re welcome to join any of the programs that Pixelles puts on. We’re a non-profit group dedicated to empowering women in game development, and we do workshops, mentorship, scholarships and lots more, not just in person in Montreal, but online as well.

Submit your own questions to Ask Women and Work by e-mailing us at

This week’s must-read stories on women and work

Women leaders weigh in on how to move the needle in 2024

Will 2024 be the year that women achieve equitable numbers in business leadership? Will companies soon chart more fair representation regarding race, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability?

If data from the last several years are any indication, the year ahead should see positive change – but that change is not happening quickly enough.

The Globe Women’s Collective spoke to four leaders across the country in different sectors to get their responses to two questions: What do you think could lead to more women in senior leadership roles? And: What are your personal leadership goals for 2024?

How playing sports can make women better leaders

Kristina Yallin might not be playing as much basketball these days, but she still likes to get her blood pumping on the regular.

When the senior finance director at Unilever Canada in Toronto isn’t leading her team of 30 employees or running after her two young children, she’s lacing up and hitting the road.

Training for marathons and half-marathons is a way to keep active while still staying on top of a jam-packed schedule, says Ms. Yallin. It also fills the gap left open after nearly two decades playing team sports as a young girl and into her varsity years as a basketball team captain and all-star at the University of Guelph.

“It was a huge part of me for the first 20-something years of my life,” she says. “It was so ingrained and a constant.”

Read why girls drop out of sports more than boys, and why that might be hampering their confidence and self-esteem in their later years.

To attract workers back, offices are being designed around needs and comfort

Even before national law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP started their office redesign in spring 2021, executives had already been leaning toward a less traditional approach than the stereotypical mahogany-panelled, closed-door-offices-around-the perimeter design of law firms past. “We knew early on we wanted to be innovative, committed to making a warm, welcoming, inclusive space to collaborate in,” says managing partner Kristin Taylor, who led the charge on the renovation when the firm moved to the Bay Adelaide Centre in downtown Toronto.

The pandemic only confirmed the need for flexibility, and the Cassels office space, designed by global architecture firm Gensler, reflects a lot of new design ideas. Workstations are identical regardless of role, including for senior lawyers. Each workstation is 10 by 12 feet with light wood, coloured desks, glass walls on all sides with a privacy frost panel at eye level, multiple filing cabinets, cupboard doors with white-board fronts and sit-stand desks.

Read how workplace comforts can make a difference in peoples’ working lives and build loyalty to organizations.

In case you missed it

From mansplaining to menopause: The most-read stories about women and work in 2023

As we wrap up 2023 and prepare to ring in a new year, we’ve collected some of the most popular pieces of content that ran on the Globe Women’s Collective the past 12 months.

Stay tuned for more stories and insights about the challenges faced by Canadian women in their careers and the inspiring leaders making waves in their industries.

Here’s to a successful, non-stressful 2024.

Read the full article.

From the archives

Helping girls see STEM careers in a different light

Prior to the summer of 2022, Patricia Kennedy had never been to the Northwest Territories. But for five weeks, she lived in Norman Wells, NWT, teaching STEM to youth.

Each day, she headed to camp to run activities with groups ranging in age from four to 16. They worked on engineering design builds, coding activities and learned about chemistry and biology. The programs were also visited by local Indigenous knowledge holders or elders, who helped Indigenous youth make connections to the STEM that already exists in their own communities.

“I’ve learned so much,” says Ms. Kennedy, who is an undergraduate student at the University of Ottawa studying engineering and computer science. “It’s really opened my eyes, and it’s been an amazing experience.”

The STEM camp is an initiative run by Actua, a national organization that works to engage youth across the country with science and technology programs.

Read the full article.

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