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According to a 2021 report, 95 per cent of women said they received no formal support during their transition to and from parental leave.lechatnoir

After a year of maternity leave, Jen Strimbold reluctantly agreed to return to her job as an occupational therapist in northern British Columbia, even though the thought of going back so soon made her anxious.

When she arrived at her office, she wasn’t prepared for how little support she received from her employer and colleagues, despite having just been through such a major life change.

“Twelve months didn’t seem like enough. I never have felt so much dread in my life. My baby and I were so attached,” she says.

On her first day, Ms. Strimbold says a few colleagues came by to greet her, but quickly returned to their work. She remembers feeling overwhelmed and upset at the thought of her daughter being at daycare for the first time. “There were some tears at my desk,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting balloons and banners, but it was a big transition and for me it was emotionally lacking.”

She wishes there had been a support group at work, or at least a supervisor who would have checked in with her in the beginning to see how she was adjusting.

Read the full article to find out how employers can help new moms thrive.

Office gossip can be good for the workplace, as long as it doesn’t go too far

The buzz. Scuttlebutt. Hot goss. The office grapevine.

Talking about people when they aren’t present is ubiquitous and serves many important functions, says Elena Martinescu, a research associate at Vrije University in the Netherlands who has studied the social phenomenon of gossip.

“People gossip to exchange and validate information about others in their social network, to create an emotional bond with their conversation partner, to have fun and relax, and to protect group members from potentially dangerous or uncooperative people,” Dr. Martinescu says.

Still, there is positive gossip and negative gossip, she says.

At work, for example, colleagues may warn one another about a team member who is likely to take credit for the work of others, or for colleagues who may behave inappropriately toward coworkers. Dr. Martinescu says that gossip may help people identify how they could improve their behaviour, but it may also spur perceptions of a threat or fear.

Read the full article to find out why gossip can be an ‘early warning signal’ for workplace bullying.

Is working from home good for your career? Six drawbacks that point to no

Working from home may be your preferred option, but is it the right move for your career? A 30-second commute to the couch or the dining table may sound great, but the price for this privilege could be an uphill battle in your professional journey.

The pandemic showed us that remote work is not only possible, but also comes with advantages. But if you do opt to work from home, even just some of the time, you likely have co-workers who are at the office more than you. As a result, they may have career advantages you are missing out on. Here are six drawbacks to working from home you should consider.

Your network will shrink

Virtual meetings are still possible, but they’re not the same as connecting informally. If you’re not in the office, there is less opportunity to catch up over a quick coffee or even to run into someone in the lobby or elevator with whom you worked in the past.

Read Merge Gupta-Sunderji’s take on five more reasons to stay in the office.

In case you missed it

DEI needs to be about more than written reports and empty promises

Conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in Canadian workplaces aren’t new. Many discussions have been had, reports have been written and promises have been made – but has there been any real change for marginalized groups in the workplace over the past 20 years?

How close are we to implementing practical, measurable solutions to create equitable and just workplaces?

“There’s such a gap between how corporate spaces look at [DEI] versus what it needs to be,” says Kimberley John-Morgan, a Toronto-based DEI content writer and equity educator. “I feel like corporate culture is stuck. It’s stuck trying to appease the powers that be. DEI is looked at like a professional development activity, when really it’s a human rights mandate.”

Read the full article for ways leaders can become catalysts for authentic change.

Despite Canada’s labour shortage, workers with disabilities are often left behind

“I’ve been asked if I am going to die from my condition in a job interview,” says Margo Bok, an MBA with a bachelor of commerce who lives with cerebral palsy.

When Ms. Bok graduated in 1986, she saw her male counterparts secure executive-level jobs while women with the same degrees were hired as secretaries. Ms. Bok’s entry into the workforce began with positions that provided wage subsidies, because no employer would hire her without additional funding.

“That’s no way to enter the working world,” says the Victoria resident.

She was consistently told that employers didn’t have the supports she needed when she had not indicated a need for any. Potential employers called her references before interviewing her to ask them if she had a disability.

Canada is facing unprecedented labour shortages. As employers struggle to fill positions, they could be reaching out to workers with disabilities both visible and invisible – individuals who often aren’t given a chance to show what they can do.

Read the full article.

Ask Women and Work

Question: My workmate and I are both mothers to small children and we are encountering difficulties balancing home and work. We have been talking about sharing a nanny and asking our employer if we could also share our job: One of us would quit, and then the two of us would share the remaining position (working alternate days). We think it’s an innovative idea, but how do we broach this with our boss? And should we draw up some kind of contract to cover what happens if one of us wants to end the arrangement?

We asked Allison Venditti, career coach and founder of Moms at Work, to field this one:

Job shares are not new but still not fully utilized in the workplace – mostly because many HR and managers have never done it so might be intimidated. It has been done in many roles such as case management and administration, so those are areas you can look to for examples.

The easiest way to start is to present it as a six-month or one-year trial. This way you get an opportunity to see if it works for both parties.

To create a workable agreement, I suggest the following:

1. Create a proposal for your manager or HR person. Let them know that you enjoy your work and the organization but have been looking at options for more flexibility. As such, you have created a proposal for a job share arrangement to be trialed.

This proposal includes an actual calendar with a start date and an end date. Essentially, you are requesting that they eventually create two part-time roles: one two days a week and one three days a week. As much as possible, the days should be consistent.

2. Job share does not require either of you to “quit” – you can retain your employee status but create an outline to show how you will be working.

3. During the trial period, I suggest you retain your full-time status. You can utilize earned vacation or get preapproved unpaid time off to cover the trial. This way at the end of the trial, if parties have not decided to move forward, there is no status change required.

4. As part of your plan, you should have space to deal with unforeseen circumstances so there is no misunderstanding.

5. There also needs to be a clear communication plan to protect your days off. If you are not scheduled to work, then requests and concerns are to be handled by the person who is at work, not the person who was sent the email. You are essentially the same role, so establishing boundaries is important.

6. Check in every eight weeks to make sure that your manager and coworkers can provide feedback and you can adjust.

By doing it this way, it is more likely you will be able to be successful and that it is a minimal amount of work for your HR team to manage.

Life is full of change, so it is impossible to plan for every circumstance. Don’t try and make a plan for every situation. Take it one step at a time – because it is a trial, you will be able to find something that works for everyone involved.

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

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