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Women have given up on their executive aspirations due to a pandemic-fuelled downward spiral of job loss, increased caregiving burden and pessimism about advancement.Georgijevic

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“As the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill in 2020, we worried that women would be disproportionately affected, career-wise. Turns out, we were right to worry. In fact, it’s worse than we expected,” says Pamela Jeffery, founder of The Prosperity Project.

“Even as signs of economic recovery take hold, one trend is deeply alarming. The Prosperity Project’s 2023 Annual Report Card on Gender Diversity and Leadership presents a stark reality: The pipeline of Canadian women moving toward corporate leadership roles has effectively dried up.

“Corporate Canada must take action – right now – to help promote gender equality, not just for its own sake but also for that of the wider economy. Studies have suggested that such a move could provide substantial increases to Canada’s GDP growth every year.

“What The Prosperity Project’s 2023 report found is that a generation of Canadian women poised to move into leadership roles is disappearing. The representation of women at the senior management level and in the pipeline to senior management have both decreased (2.8 percentage points and 11.9 percentage points, respectively) since 2021.”

Read more from Ms. Jeffery on why corporate Canada must move quickly and aggressively to get more women on track to leadership roles.

Meet the Indigenous designers shaking up Milan Fashion Week

Sage Paul has championed Indigenous fashion in Canada for more than a decade. The Toronto-based Dene designer and Indigenous Fashion Arts (IFA) executive’s next mission: breaking down barriers in the global industry. This week, Paul has brought six Indigenous designers from across the country to Milan Fashion Week to showcase their work at the highly regarded trade show WHITE Milano (Feb. 24-27).

“I want our work valued. It’s not a token,” Paul tells The Globe and Mail, while sitting near Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, where the Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival was held last June. WHITE attended last year’s festival and subsequently signed on to feature a different group of Indigenous Canadians each year until 2025. “WHITE Milano values craftsmanship, quality, luxury and one-of-a-kind pieces, which aligns with the work happening in our community,” explains Paul.

This is Paul’s first time taking a delegation abroad and the first international trade show for the designers, who will have access to the 16,000-20,000 visitors at WHITE, including local suppliers, prospective luxury partners and buyers like department stores Saks Fifth Avenue and Hudson’s Bay.

Meet the six designers heading to Milan and learn more on what this moment means for a changing industry.

To mentor women effectively, replace old tropes with new truths

The benefits of mentoring are legion. That’s why in recent years there has been a push for executives to take on younger women as protégés and, through mentoring or sponsorship, help them rise through the ranks, reducing the gender gap at the top of most organizations.

But as the situation for women in organizations change – albeit sometimes at glacial speed – mentors have to be wary that they are on solid grounding. “Mentoring women requires more than just sharing your own experiences, regardless of your gender. This is because times, tropes and gender truths have changed since most mentors have been in the trenches their protégés work in today,” executive coach Dana Theus writes on her blog.

That means understanding today’s reality and, in particular, the unconscious biases that can block women’s progress. She argues some common workplace mentoring advice for women actually perpetuates the gender gap and is based on workplace truisms born out of the 1970s when women were relatively new to any kind of leadership. “Almost 50 years later, what were once truths have become tropes,” she warns.

Read the full article to find out which outdated tropes need to go.

In case you missed it

Freezing at the office? You’re not alone – and it may make you less productive

At Ginella Massa’s old job, the last thing she thought she’d need at her desk was a Snuggie. Yet somehow, the zebra-striped blanket with sleeves made an appearance every single day.

“I always know [that] as soon as the warm weather hits, I have to start thinking about dressing for two climates,” says Ms. Massa, a TV news anchor based in Toronto. “Because it might be summer outside, but it’s always absolutely freezing inside the office. And that’s been the case at multiple jobs that I have worked.”

Ms. Massa’s experience may sound familiar. At least anecdotally, women have long complained that office temperatures are simply too cold, especially in the summer months.

“I certainly wasn’t the only one, because I’ve had my Snuggie stolen,” Ms. Massa says. “My friend who sat behind me also had her designated desk shawl.”

Read the full article.

How workplaces get trans inclusion wrong – and what they can do to make it right

Last year, Adrienne Smith argued a case before the BC Human Rights Tribunal that, in their own words, was “a struggle.”

“I wish it had not been necessary to argue it,” says Smith, a Vancouver-based transgender rights activist and lawyer who runs a boutique firm specializing in law that affects marginalized communities. “But really, [my client’s] working conditions are quite common.”

The case concerned a server named Jessie Nelson, a gender fluid, non-binary transgender person who asked their employer to use they/them pronouns for them at the restaurant they worked at. While most co-workers complied with this request, there was one holdout: a bartender, who repeatedly used she/her pronouns for Nelson and provocatively gendered nicknames like “sweetheart” and “honey.”

Eventually, this resulted in a verbal altercation between Nelson and the person deliberately misgendering them, although the result was not what you’d expect. It was Nelson, not the bartender, who was fired before their next shift.

Read the full article.

Ask Women and Work

Question: I’m a first-time founder in the process of trying to get funding for my business. I am also a mom and currently pregnant with my second child. A friend and mentor recently told me that I should not disclose these facts to potential funders because it will hamper my chances. Meanwhile, another business owner friend said I should disclose for reasons of transparency. What are your thoughts on this? And if I do let them know about my child and pregnancy, how can I do so in a way that lets funders know it’s not a negative thing, but rather a positive?

We asked Anna Sinclair, founder and CEO of Total Mom Inc. and Canada’s Total Mom Pitch to tackle this one:

Firstly, being a mom is your superpower, and I would capitalize on that! Here’s the thing: as a mom and business owner, you already possess the skills necessary to become a successful entrepreneur. You are accountable, flexible, juggle many plates, wear many hats and can multitask.

The decision to disclose your status as a mother and your pregnancy to potential funders are ultimately up to you. Investors may be looking for founders who can work long hours, be flexible and commit fully to their business. So, disclosing your status as a mother and pregnancy could raise concerns about your availability and commitment to the business.

On the other hand, transparency is vital and investors often value honesty and authenticity. If you decide to disclose your status, you can emphasize that being a mother has made you a more organized, efficient and motivated person, which could be an advantage for your business. You can also highlight that having a child or being pregnant does not affect your skills, experience or dedication to your venture.

It’s important to convey that you are committed to your business and have a solid plan to balance your personal and professional responsibilities.

If you decide to disclose your status, you can do so confidently and positively during your pitch or presentation. It’s recommended that you focus on your business idea, skills and potential as a founder first and then mention your status briefly as part of your introduction or personal background. You can also provide reassurance that you have a plan in place to manage your responsibilities effectively, such as having a support system or delegating tasks.

Overall, there is no right or wrong answer. The decision to disclose your status as a mother and your pregnancy depends on your personal preferences, the nature of your business and the investment ecosystem. Just keep in mind that investors are looking for talented and dedicated founders who can execute their vision and drive the business forward, so it’s essential to demonstrate your strengths and commitment to your venture.

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

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