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Ladan Shokrgozar of Harbourfront Wealth Management, Elizabeth Petticrew of BMO Nesbitt Burns, Jenny Zhou of CIBC Wood Gundy and Shelly Appleton-Benko of Odlum Brown.Alison Boulier/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Content from The Globe’s weekly Women and Work newsletter, part of The Globe’s Women’s Collective. To subscribe, click here.

It could be the inspiring scenery, high standard of living, time zone difference, or even the milder weather (including all that rain), but there’s something about Vancouver that’s enabling women advisors to flourish.

Canada’s third-largest city dominates the inaugural Canada’s Top Women Wealth Advisors ranking. Of the 100 women on this year’s list, 22 are based in Metro Vancouver, including the top four. There are 10 in the top 20.

Lifestyle is one factor that helps women advisors thrive on the West Coast, says Shelly Appleton-Benko, vice-president, director and portfolio manager at Odlum Brown Ltd. in Vancouver.

“I just find it’s a little more relaxed in the Vancouver area and more flexible,” she says. “There’s more of a work-life balance to everything.”

That doesn’t mean West Coast advisors work less than their peers across Canada, but the hours – an early start ahead of the market-open at 6:30 a.m. Pacific Time (PT) and 1 p.m. PT close – can provide more flexibility in the afternoons for personal and family time. It can help them focus more on their personal and professional lives.

Read more on how lifestyle and community help top advisors thrive in Vancouver.

Workplace rituals matter, more than you might think

Rituals exist everywhere from family occasions and sporting events to life milestones and religious services. Whether it is a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, particular pre-game music, a personalized birthday celebration or a coming-of-age bar or bat mitzvah, these customs persist because they serve a valuable purpose. They make people feel like they belong, they make the event more meaningful and as a result, they encourage individuals to engage and excel in that sphere.

Workplace rituals are capable of accomplishing the same outcomes, creating inclusivity and relevance for employees, leading to improved performance. But sadly, many leaders don’t take, or even realize, this opportunity to build and maintain team and company culture.

The morning coffee run is an example of a workplace ritual. It doesn’t directly affect the work that needs to be done (some may argue that the caffeine has a direct relationship), happens daily and serves to increase team camaraderie.

Read Merge Gupta-Sunderji’s tips for creating effective workplace rituals.

Full circle: Christine Gillies escaped from the World Trade Center on 9/11. Now she helps bring workers home safe

The sound of a fire alarm burst into the conference room. Christine Gillies, chief marketing officer at Calgary’s Blackline Safety, spun into action. She slammed her laptop shut and hustled from the room, beating pretty much everyone to the parking lot. Under the smoky skies of an Alberta summer, she watched her colleagues meander out of the Blackline building. Several were still carrying on their discussion from the board room. Gillies wondered what they thought of her, the new executive two months into the job who’d just run from a meeting.

Then came the all-clear signal. A wave of relief. Someone said to Gillies, “Boy, you sure bolted.” Her heart still pounding, she replied, “You better believe it.”

Gillies had been mum about her past when she joined Blackline, a 19-year-old company that makes first-of-its-kind wireless, wearable sensors for people who work in industrial or remote locations.

When no one brought it up during the hiring process, Gillies realized that the story she’d carried for two decades – the reason people used to ask her at parties, “Hey, aren’t you that girl?” – had finally faded into the background.

For more of Ms. Gillies’ story, read the full article.

In case you missed it

Women entrepreneurs are over-mentored and underfunded

While mentorship opportunities for women entrepreneurs have grown in recent years, there is still a support gap when it comes to what women really need to start and grow their businesses: funding.

“When we look at the barriers women and other underestimated groups face, we know that access to financial, social and entrepreneurial capital are intersecting and compounding barriers,” says Shannon Pestun, Calgary-based CEO of Pestun Consulting and co-founder of The Finance Cafe, a business financial literacy platform.

“There is way more support for women seeking mentoring than funding,” Ms. Pestun says.

In Canada, women entrepreneurs receive 4 per cent of VC funding and women are under-represented among equity investors, representing only 15.2 per cent of Canadian VC partners and 16.7 per cent of Canadian angel investors.

Meanwhile, organizations and ecosystems are often more willing to provide mentorship, advising and coaching to help support women, rather than investing in and providing capital for women-led businesses.

Read the full article.

Working from home is causing more pain for women

“If my chair suddenly changes position, I end up in pain,” says Elna Cain.

Like many Canadians, Ms. Cain has been working from home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her physical ailments commenced the same way repetitive strain injury begins for most people who work at a computer: as neck and shoulder pain that she chalked up to stress and a bad night’s sleep.

Then, her arms started going numb.

“I have to pace myself and take time off or the pain spreads to my neck, eventually to my back, and causes multi-day headaches,” explains the Thunder Bay, Ont.-based writer, graphic designer and blogger at

Ms. Cain is not alone.

In a recent National Work From Home survey of Canadian workers by Conestoga College’s Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness and Performance, 70 per cent of respondents had discomfort at the end of the day, with women reporting more frequent and more severe pain than men.

Read the full article.

Ask Women and Work

Question: One of my team members recently quit and in her exit interview, she told me that we don’t have a very inclusive culture. I was surprised and asked her to elaborate but she declined. Now, I’m concerned there is something lacking in our workplace culture that I have missed. She was a great employee, and we were sorry to lose her. What’s the best way to approach my remaining employees to figure out what is wrong here?

We asked Leigh Mitchell, marketing and DEIB consultant and founder of Bee Happy HR Diverse Talent Hive, to field this one:

One of the first things you can do is to create an environment where your remaining employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences. To do this, build time in your company calendar for DEIB (Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and Belonging) reflection. Take an honest look at where you are and what shared goals and values need to be improved.

Step #1: Reflect on respect.

Create meeting opportunities by emphasizing that you value and respect employees’ opinions and are committed to creating an inclusive workplace. Then, make sure you put words into action. Create a working plan with your teams and ensure accountability by implementing concrete strategies and measuring results continuously using systems like anonymous feedback.

Step #2: Reflect on feedback.

Here are some questions your whole organization can consider:

  1. What specific strategies can you implement to make the workplace more inclusive?
  2. How can you ensure employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences?
  3. How can the leadership team and employees address these issues identified through anonymous feedback and one-on-one employee meetings?

Step #3: Reflect on training opportunities.

Providing resources and training on inclusivity, such as workshops on unconscious bias, can contribute to creating a more positive and inclusive workplace culture. Remember, this is a process that requires ongoing commitment and effort. By being proactive and responsive to your employees’ feedback, you can create a workplace culture that is welcoming and inclusive for everyone.

Step #4: Reflect on opportunities to capitalize on individual potential and foster an increased sense of belonging in the workplace.

Everyone is unique; this is a superpower for each team member and brings value to the work they do. Consider opportunities to learn about your employees’ unique talents and strengths and encourage them to express them. A group exercise like The Fascination Advantage® assessment can give insight into how the world sees each of your employees. Based on marketing science, it helps everyone on the team understand and value their uniqueness and distinct advantages so that your employees can feel confident in who they are. This will help them project confidence, speak up and feel seen in a positive way.

Your challenge won’t have an easy fix, this is an ongoing process that requires mindful leadership, commitment and patience. Recognizing that you need to do something is the first step, and your caring will give you the drive to make positive changes in your organization.

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

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