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Puvikalyan Pallegar, left, and Nikitha Kendyla, co-founders of Nucliq, chose to launch their startup in St. John’s.handout

If cod fish is Newfoundland and Labrador’s past, its future may be technology.

Powerhouse companies like Verafin and CoLab, and rapidly growing startups such as Genoa Design and Nucliq Biologics are some of the game-changing enterprises that have made Newfoundland and Labrador their home base. Memorial University’s innovation hub, Genesis Centre, is helping guide and launch many startups from the ideation stage onwards.

A number of Genesis startups, including Milksta, Granville Biomedical, North Star Payroll, ReportMate, Adorify and Nucliq, are founded or co-founded by women, many of whom are newcomers to Canada.

Dr. Nikitha Kendyla co-founded Nucliq with her partner (and husband), Dr. Purvikalyan Pallegar. She came from India to Newfoundland with her family to attend school, and says she is grateful for the connections she made at Genesis, and previous to that, the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE), where Nucliq was the recipient of the prestigious $25,000 Mel Woodward Cup in 2020.

“I had never been outside of my province in India,” says Dr. Kendyla. “I was pretty naive when I arrived here. Being able to work with my PhD supervisor and later with MCE and Genesis in terms of the business development, they really helped me develop background and knowledge for the entrepreneurship aspect of growing our company. Memorial University has made me the person I am today.”

With a robust professional network along with a growing family, Dr. Kendyla says she is thriving in her Canadian life.

With the provincial government eliminating fees for newcomers in the 2022 budget and setting an ambitious goal of welcoming 5,100 newcomers annually by 2026, she is not the only one to grow roots in the rocks.

Reducing barriers through belonging and community

A research project led by Genesis and funded by the NL Workforce Innovation Centre (NLWIC) asked what impact targeted and innovative programming has on reducing barriers to entry for marginalized groups in the technology sector over a three-year span.

The study showed that a strong sense of belonging, community and empowerment are vital for budding entrepreneurs to flourish in the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Laura Aguirre Polo, success manager of belonging at Genesis, says that they have implemented initiatives and established new partnerships with community organizations in order to build an unbreakable support network for entrepreneurs.

She says that she herself only meant to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador for one year.

“I was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, and I lived in the USA for eight years before coming to NL for grad school. I felt in love with the province, the ocean and the people, so I decided to make Newfoundland home,” she says.

With a background in public health and social justice, Ms. Aguirre Polo says she was surprised to land in the tech sector.

“Working at Genesis made me realize that there is a place for everyone in tech, and that the tech ecosystem in Newfoundland and Labrador is full of people from very diverse backgrounds who are doing some incredible work.”

Currently, 50 per cent of Genesis companies are founded by newcomers and about forty per cent are female-founded, says Ms. Aguirre Polo.

“We still want more representation of historically underrepresented people in tech and in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. And we’re seeing progress,” she says. “It’s inspiring to see more women, newcomers and people with foreign accents in leadership roles, managing companies, creating jobs and contributing to the economy.”

‘Massive social, demographic and economic benefits’

In 2021, Fry Family Foundation made a five-year commitment to Memorial University to support the development and delivery of a Leadership Program for women and newcomer entrepreneurs participating in the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE), the Centre for Social Enterprise (CSE) and the Genesis Centre. The idea is to create streamlined programming that will result in improved outcomes for female and immigrant entrepreneurs.

“For women, the programming focuses on identified barriers like fearing the lack of work-life balance, lack of networks and imposter syndrome. Some women ask themselves things like, ‘Can I be an entrepreneur and a mom?’” says Ms. Aguirre Polo. For newcomers, there is programming to support public speaking, cross-cultural communication and help navigating the Canadian immigration system.

Genesis is also the only designated entity in the province for the federal government’s Start-Up Visa program (SUV), giving entrepreneurs an expedited opportunity to immigrate to Canada and establish a new business.

“Several of our newcomer founders were able to settle in Newfoundland and Labrador and work on their business, and through this program, successfully received their Permanent Residency,” Ms. Aguirre Polo says.

In a post-pandemic world, the allure of living in a province with stunning natural beauty and welcoming people is strong, she adds. With such strong support networks, the hope is that female entrepreneurs, whether they were born in Newfoundland and Labrador or not, will settle into the cliffs and shores for many years to come.

“When programs like this are run successfully, it can have massive social, demographic and economic benefits to a small place like Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Ask Women and Work

Have a question about your work life? E-mail us at GWC@globeandmail.com.

Question: I just read your story about the four-day workweek – I want that! But I’m not sure my employer will want it. What are the steps to convincing an employer that this arrangement will be beneficial for me and for them as well? Would you suggest getting others on board who might want the same set-up? I would obviously want to avoid a pay cut. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

We asked Joanne Burton, consultant and professional branding specialist at LHH in Toronto to field this one:

As a concept, the four-day workweek is not new. It has been around for many years, but for the select few. The pandemic has jumpstarted the conversation and put the idea into the spotlight.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the four-day workweek. Different companies have different needs and what works for one company won’t necessarily work for another. Industry, operational needs, and whether an organization pays employees by hourly wage or salary are all factors that may affect an employer’s approach and ability to alter the traditional 5-day workweek.

Two models of the four-day workweek have risen to the top in terms of popularity. Here are the two most prevalent structures:

  • True four-day work week: Four days of work, typically Monday-Thursday; 32 hours of work per week, standard eight-hour days; no change in pay or benefits. This is a true four-day workweek in the sense that employees work fewer hours overall.
  • Compressed work week: Four days of work typically Monday-Thursday; 40 hours of work per week, longer 10-hour days; no change in pay. Employees are expected to work the same number of hours overall but spread over a shorter amount of time.

While the benefits of a four-day work week for employees are clear, what’s in it for employers?

While it may seem counterintuitive to spend the same amount of money for fewer hours in return, many studies are finding productivity goes up when hours worked go down. Further, the positive effects of improved work-life balance and employee satisfaction increases the quality of work performed. All employers should look at the big-picture message behind this market trend: employees want more flexibility. It’s becoming less and less of a job perk and more and more of a job requirement.

The best way to approach your employer with a request for a flexible work arrangement is to present a win-win opportunity. Create a proposal that includes your desired work schedule, how you can deliver on business objectives with zero impact on productivity and the cost benefit to the company. Consider the organizational culture, the company’s line of business, the customer base and your specific role when crafting your proposal.

In the end, employers who adopt flexibility into their workplaces will attract, recruit and better retain talent by evolving to this new future of work.

Interested in more perspectives about women in the workplace? Find all stories on the hub here, and subscribe to the new Women and Work newsletter here. Have feedback on the series? E-mail us at GWC@globeandmail.com.