Business owners share their best advice. Plus, does a dress code make sense in your workplace?

For many women, a new year brings new career goals, and that often includes entrepreneurship.FG Trade

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

As the new year approaches, it can be a good time to assess past career achievements and make plans for the future. For many women, the idea of becoming an entrepreneur tops their aspirational wish list.

According to 2021 research by ISU Corp, there are 3.5 million entrepreneurs in Canada, and 72.4 per cent of Canadians “consider entrepreneurship a desirable career choice.”

But in this era of looming recession, it can be scary to take that leap into small business ownership.

Here, entrepreneurs Rumeet Billan, Amanda Schuler and Sue Henderson share their lessons learned and the secrets to their successes.

Insecure gatekeepers are ineffective leaders. Here’s how to change that culture

If you’ve been working long enough, you’ve likely encountered a “gatekeeper” leadership persona. The one who doesn’t let anyone in their organization do anything without cumbersome and often painfully slow personal approvals from them.

The signs are easy to spot. The leader requires all significant communications with client groups and stakeholders to go through them, or immediately be reported to them with regular status updates or rounds of forwarded e-mails. Individual team members develop a protective attitude of “I’d better ask if this is okay to do” based on past interactions that have landed them in trouble for acting independently.

Clients have learned that the group with such leadership is often slow to respond and often seeks to work around the leader in question when floating new assignments.

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common issue for new or insecure leaders, and inhibits developing an effective leadership culture of trust and empowerment.

Read more from talent and leadership development specialist Eileen Dooley here.

Should you be striking a balance between passion and pay at work?

Career advice books published in the 1950s and 1960s typically advised workers to find a stable, well-paying career and gradually learn to enjoy the work itself. The prevailing wisdom at the time suggested that fulfilment would come from mastering a craft, but made little mention of aligning career ambitions with personal interests.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that a narrative started to build around finding interest and fulfilment as a centrepiece of career decision-making, says Erin Cech, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan.

“Having work that is interesting and meaningful is of central importance to workers at least since the early 1980s,” says Dr. Cech, author of The Trouble With Passion: How Searching for Fulfillment at Work Fosters Inequality.

Forty years later, employment has only become more precarious and more intertwined with personal identity.

“Even in this moment where people are really struggling and re-evaluating their relationship to the paid labour force, many are seeing self-expression and passion as the dominant way they want to think about making career decisions,” Dr. Cech says.

Read the full article for why it can be risky to mix hobbies with career ambitions.

In case you missed it

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.

“The manager told Jessie, ‘You asked for too much too soon,’” says Smith.

Read the full article here.

Cybersecurity is a red-hot career choice – why aren’t more women working in this space?

How many women do you know who are cybersecurity experts? If you can only name a handful (or maybe none at all), that’s not surprising.

In 2021, women represented just 25 per cent of the global cybersecurity work force, according to an estimate from Cybersecurity Ventures, an organization that carries out research into the world cyber economy. Meanwhile, it’s an industry in great demand – that same year, there were 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally.

This dearth of women in the cybersecurity field is a problem that Cat Coode, a data privacy consultant based in Waterloo, Ont., has experienced first-hand.

“When we walk in a room and start to talk about cybersecurity, we are assumed to be the salespeople and not actually the people who know how to implement,” says Ms. Coode.

Read the full article here.

Ask Women and Work

Question: I’m a business owner and my employees have been progressively getting more and more casual in how they dress (eg. sweatpants, sneakers, T-shirts). Should I institute a dress code or does that even really matter any more? We do meet clients in the office. I’m about 30 years older than most of my team – am I being outdated thinking it matters what people wear at work?

We asked Sumana Jeddy, founder and CEO, The Workplace Wellness Collective and Jeddy Wellness, to field this one.

Dress codes are still relevant for businesses, but how you go about reinforcing them comes down to the culture and values of the workplace and what workplace wellness means to you and your organization.

As a millennial who was raised in the Middle East and who attended a private school with very strict uniform rules, there was no ambiguity when it came to the dress code. We had different uniforms for different days (blazer or no blazer, tie or no tie). I also spent over a decade in corporate Canada where work attire was always different from non-work attire. Casual Fridays explicitly meant no ripped jeans, no sweatpants and no dirty sneakers.

Currently, as a business owner primarily working from home, how I show up to work daily has not changed. I start my day by dressing up in my work attire instead of lounging around in pyjamas – it’s a fool-proof wellness strategy.

Before instituting a dress code, you can think about the following:

1. Culture. What kind of work environment do you wish to create for your employees and how can a dress code reinforce your organizational values? Is your workplace culture fun, friendly, welcoming, relaxed, casual (athleisure wear, solid colour tees, polos or tops with no prints, clean and polished sneakers)? Or is it professional, innovative, fast-paced and respectful (button-downs, blazers, trousers, skirts, dresses, dress shoes, loafers, heels)?

2. Values. A dress code is a reflection of business values. What is the mission statement of your workplace and is the dress code you wish to institute consistent with the business values and goals? Does it demonstrate what kind of relationship you wish to develop with your clients? As the owner, are you embodying those values and are you expecting your employees to promote the same in order to create trust, harmony, equality, authority and cohesion at work?

3. Workplace wellness. Burnout and stress in the workplace can impact an employee’s appearance and behaviour. Companies with wellness on their agenda are encouraging employees to bring their whole self to work. A terrific workplace wellness strategy is one that promotes employee mental health and customizes the work attire to the occasion. Can an employee effortlessly step into a yoga session or hit the Peloton and effortlessly step back into a client meeting?

It’s not so much about instituting a specific dress code as it is about providing direction on work settings. Can you create some guidelines on attire for client meetings vs. individual deep work vs. scrum vs. in-office internal meetings vs. Zoom meetings?

Whether you are selecting a business formal, business professional, business casual, smart elegant, smart relaxed or smart sporty dress code, examine your personal bias to ensure you are implementing a non-biased, gender-neutral, dress code policy for your employees. That will ensure you are providing a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.

Submit your own questions to Ask Women and Work by e-mailing us at GWC@globeandmail.com.

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

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