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The long-standing go-to for casual networking is drinks after work – but that culture is not always inclusive.franckreporter

The local bar has long been the default setting for casual networking in many Canadian workplaces.

The act of gathering at a bar or restaurant to consume alcohol is often seen as a way for employees and their bosses to bond, chat and get to know one another outside the pressures of the job.

But for women and other marginalized groups, this common social practice is not always inclusive.

For Tala Abu Hayyaneh, a Calgary-based millennial working in the public sector, the presumed participation in drinking culture has resulted in uncomfortable situations. As a Muslim woman, Ms. Abu Hayyaneh recalls the social pressure to conform that occurred during her first employee work retreat post-pandemic lockdowns.

“This was the only socializing opportunity to network, [and it] was happening late in the evening at a brewery I’d never heard of before,” says Ms. Abu Hayyaneh. Hesitant to travel far in the city for the event but not wanting to miss an opportunity for professional engagement, she reluctantly attended.

“At first, I started self-blaming, thinking I was putting obstacles in my way to connect. But everyone was drinking and talking about things I couldn’t necessarily relate to,” she says.

Read the full article to find out why alcohol-based work events can hinder career advancement.

How to say no in No-vember for a happier, healthier, more productive work life

As companies are adapting to new ways of working at varying speeds, there is a need for organizations, teams and individuals to optimize and prioritize along new dimensions: What work is best suited in-office versus remote? What is best accomplished synchronously versus asynchronously? How can we rethink and revitalize meetings so we aren’t stuck in meetings all day with no time to think or do?

Much can be done at an organizational level and team leader level to help prioritize and create capacity for employees, so that they can focus on what matters. Not just cutting big projects and product launches, but reconfiguring how work is done and delivered. For example, does that quarterly business review really require a 100-page polished PowerPoint deck and eight hours of meetings?

At an individual level, it may be time to simplify our lives by saying “no” to things that do not serve us. Liane Davey, author of The Good Fight, highlights 30 drains on health, happiness, and productivity you can start saying “no” to in No-vember, perfect timing before the holiday rush adds to our stress.

Read on to find out what you should be saying no to in 2022 and beyond.

A different kind of career fair: ‘It was a love letter to my community’

Nicole Antoine is used to seeing Black excellence up close. Her mother was a director at several major companies whose circle of friends included CFOs, accountants and lawyers.

Having grown up in a community of Black women who constantly uplifted each other, Antoine and her group of friends realized they were lacking similar safe spaces in their own adult lives – places where women like them could gather, share, motivate and inspire each other, while being their most authentic selves.

“It was really [about], how we could share amongst Black women who understand our situations, our environments, our nuances, so that [we] wouldn’t feel like, ‘Wait a minute, is it just me?’”

That desire sparked the creation of Four Brown Girls, an event management company that helps brands, government agencies and communities create safe digital and physical spaces for Black people.

Read the full article to learn about how Nicole Antoine is creating connections and community with events like the BLAXPO career fair.

In case you missed it

Women in the sandwich generation are overworked, exhausted and missing out on career opportunities

Lori Wilson recently took a leave from work to deal with the stress of caregiving for her mother and two teenage daughters.

Her mother was diagnosed with hepatic encephalopathy caused by liver disease that, without treatment, could result in her mother either becoming aggressive or slipping into a coma. Her mother moved in with her family two years ago – just before the pandemic hit.

In addition, Ms. Wilson’s adopted teenaged daughters both struggle with mental health issues, creating a perfect storm of pressure from all sides.

“What broke me was that there were too many things happening all at once,” says Ms. Wilson, a planning manager at a Toronto hospital.

Given the rise in mental health issues among children over the course of the pandemic, alongside a rapidly aging population, caregivers in the sandwich generation have been socially isolated and facing huge pressures these last few years.

Read the full article here.

Is it time for you to make a career change?

There’s no doubt that the last few years have changed people’s attitudes toward work and left many considering a career change.

While it may be intimidating to take the plunge into unknown waters, the Gallup State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report showed that 71 per cent of workers in the U.S. and Canada say it’s a good time to find a job. After all, job vacancies are high in Canada and many employers are offering flexible work options and other perks to be competitive in a tight labour market.

Calgary-based career specialist and HR professional Katia Segal agrees, saying it’s “the best time ever” to change careers.

“This is happening because people want to feel more fulfilled in their lives,” says Ms. Segal. “We deserve to be happy in all areas and our career still has a big impact on our day-to-day [lives].”

Read the full article for tips on making the leap.

Ask Women and Work

Question: My partner and I have been running our own retail business for the past four years. We have done well, even through COVID, and I feel like it’s time to take the business to the next level. Specifically, we want to expand by building out our e-commerce capabilities. We’ve bootstrapped so far, but we need financing in order to expand nationally, maybe even internationally! Where should we be looking? And how can we set ourselves up for success?

We asked Laura Didyk, vice-president, client diversity at BDC, to field this one:

First, kudos to you and your partner for building a thriving business over the past four years! Let’s help you take it to the next level.

Investing in e-commerce is a great idea. In retail, delivering an exceptional customer experience is critical. By investing in technology, you can be where your customers are and make their online experience seamless and thoughtful, helping them – and your bottom line.

First, take advantage of free or low-cost money and advice. A hidden gem is the Canada Digital Adoption Program. This grant program has two streams: 1) up to $2,400 to set up e-commerce, or 2) up to $15,000 to work with an expert to help you build a customized digital plan, plus an interest free loan to implement it. Many provincial governments also offer grants. For instance, Alberta just announced $6-million in grants for women entrepreneurs. A quick online search can help you identify options.

Applying for financing can feel daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Start by getting your ducks in a row – update your business plan to outline how the financing will support your expansion and grow your business. You’ll also need to have your financial statements and projections ready. Here’s a great detailed guide to help you prepare. Knowing your numbers and having answers to the banker’s questions will help build your character (one of the 5 “C’s” of credit that is important to your overall creditworthiness) and help you stand out.

When you’re ready to apply, you’ll want to ensure you get the best terms and conditions for your business (such as the repayment terms, interest rate and fees). Although many business owners start with their personal banker or a chartered bank, there are many specialized lending organizations across the country depending on your region (Community Futures), gender ( The Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada), age and diversity (Futurpreneur) – and of course, BDC, the bank for entrepreneurs. BDC also has hundreds of free resources including training, articles, and templates to help you grow your business.

If international growth is on your mind, the best place to start is the Trade Commissioner Service. They can help you explore legal and tax implications, shipping costs and recommend other partners to support this journey. You can also check out this guide to international expansion as starting place.

You have a lot to consider but with intentional planning, you will set yourself up for success. Don’t forget there are many organizations that exist to help business owners thrive, so seek help when you need it. Good luck!

Submit your own questions to Ask Women and Work by e-mailing us at GWC@globeandmail.com.

Interested in more perspectives about women in the workplace? Find all stories on the The Globe Women’s Collective hub here, and subscribe to the new Women and Work newsletter here. Have feedback? Email us at GWC@globeandmail.com.