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As workplaces become more casual and more people work from home, women are rethinking high heels.PeopleImages/Getty Images

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Early in her career, as a lawyer on Bay Street in Toronto, Lisa Stam would sometimes cram her foot into a pair of spiky heels.

Most courtrooms feature hard flooring, so heels make a loud, intimidating clack on them.

“When you march in with heels, there’s a presence you can have,” says Ms. Stam. “There’s a bit of theatre to law.”

Outside of court, Ms. Stam opted to mainly wear flats paired with pantsuits. Now, she practices employment, labour and human rights law at a small firm where everyone works remotely. “We can all wear bare feet if we want.”

High heels have been a staple of women’s workwear for decades. But as workplaces become more casual and more people work from home, women are rethinking how footwear impacts their careers and self-image.

Do heels at work make sense any more?

Read more about the pros and (painful) cons of heel-wearing in the workplace.

Fixing systemic racism in the workplace isn’t the job of those harmed by it

“When someone does physical harm, it’s often easy to prove,” says Karima-Catherine Goundiam, founder and CEO of digital strategy firm Red Dot Digital and business matchmaking platform B2BeeMatch. “But when the harm is caused by systemic racism, it’s difficult, because people will say, ‘Are you sure it’s really racism? Maybe it’s just you.’

“With systemic racism, Black people, Indigenous people and people of colour (BIPOC) don’t get offers, promotions, mentoring, the support they need or the projects they want. All these things are very sneaky and not always easy to identify. In the corporate world, BIPOC encounter two kinds of organizations. In the first, they don’t want to talk about racism, and you’re the one with the problem. In the second, they want to talk about racism and you’re still the one dealing with the problem.

“Systemic racism places the victim in a difficult position where they are isolated and second-guessed. This can then have a ripple effect where the person may start to second-guess themselves, too.”

Read about why leaders need to be the ones taking action against workplace discrimination.

Architecture and curiosity drive Phyllis Lambert’s new photo book

In her 90s, Phyllis Lambert has become a devoted user of Instagram. Every few days, a new image pops up on her account, often of daylight playing across the terrace of her greystone house in old Montreal.

In a sense this is not surprising. For 70 years, the founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture has been a student of both photography and the built environment. This keen interest comes through in her newly released book, Observation Is A Constant That Underlies All Approaches. The photo book is an assemblage of images that Lambert has taken in various formats since 1954, starting with 35mm black-and-white film.

The book displays her evolving interest in visual culture, from student work at Yale to a smorgasbord of London signs. But there are two through lines: architecture and an unquenchable curiosity.

Read more about Phyllis Lambert’s photo book and discerning eye.

In case you missed it

Leaders are expected to be bold and assertive. So why do women leaders get penalized for it?

Ruth Zive remembers coming out of what she describes as a “spirited meeting” when a male colleague came up to her and said, “You shouldn’t talk so loud.”

Ms. Zive, CMO at Ada, an AI customer interaction company based in Toronto, has worked in marketing and tech for nearly two decades. She says she’s heard feedback like this in the past – mainly from men. She’s been told she’s too assertive and too decisive. She once was told she moves her hands too much when speaking.

Yet Ms. Zive has observed men speaking loudly and being assertive to the point of being aggressive. Once, a man at work yelled at her while standing on a table, pointing his finger right at her.

She labels the workplace personality dilemma as an “impossible conflict.” While she thinks the fact that she’s outspoken and opinionated has served her well – “I’ve been noticed and heard and given responsibilities,” she says – Ms. Zive has also faced criticism for her manner in the workplace.

Read the full article.

How leaders in the workplace can make space for mental health

Six months into her job at Toronto-based talent intelligence company Ideal, Kayla Kozan experienced her first nervous breakdown.

“It came after not sleeping for a few days,” says Ms. Kozan. “I was confused, paranoid, not sure what was going on around me.”

One of the company’s co-founders took her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After the breakdown, Ms. Kozan returned home to live with her family in Regina.

“I was on leave for over a year, which is longer than I had worked at Ideal,” she says. “So, when I saw a call coming in from the office, I knew they were calling to lay me off.”

At the time of the call, Ms. Kozan was going through a depressive episode, feeling lost, depleted and like she wasn’t good at anything.

“Instead of letting me go, they were calling to say they want to fly me into Toronto to join the company holiday party,” she says.

Read the full article.

Ask Women and Work

Question: I recently agreed to be a mentor for a young woman in my industry. I’ve never been a mentor before and I want to start off our relationship on the right foot. How should I approach this first meeting with her?

We asked Montreal-based career strategy coach Tiffany Uman to tackle this one:

As a new mentor, this is the perfect moment to establish a comforting and open relationship with your mentee right out of the gate. They likely chose you as their mentor for a few reasons. First, they look up to you and admire your career path. Second, they believe they can gain important insights from you tied to their own career development. Third, they would like to achieve similar goals to what you’ve already accomplished.

Knowing this, you can fuel your conversations around what they’d most like to learn from you. A great starting point is outright asking your mentee in your first meeting together what it is they’re hoping to gain from your mentorship relationship. This way, you can clearly understand their expectations and deliver well against this moving forward. You’ll also want to establish what your communication dynamic and cadence will be with them. For instance, is it a once per month touch-base? Is it a quarterly lunch? Is it an on-demand style of communication as needed? All of these elements can set the right tone for a fruitful mentor/mentee relationship.

As the mentor, you can also reflect on what you would have liked to know earlier in your career path within your respective industry and shed light on those learnings with your mentee. They won’t always know the right questions to ask because they’re earlier in their professional journey, but because you’ve walked that walk already, you can bring even more depth and context to the conversations. If you work in the same organization, you can even go so far as serving as an advocate for your mentee and guiding the way toward their development. This could be in the form of actions such as leveraging your network, making introductions and helping them gain more exposure.

At the end of the day, mentorship is the ultimate form of flattery. Use this as an opportunity to give back and pay it forward so that your mentee can follow in your footsteps and avoid some of the pitfalls you may have experienced yourself. You’ve got this!

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

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