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Navigating 2023: Reflections on Empowering Women and Breaking Workplace Barriers

Dec 31, 2023

We launched the Propeller Experience program in March 2021 as a direct result of the gendered impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on women’s labour force participation. Our goal was to repair some of that damage by helping women find, or build, higher value paid work - to transition into new jobs, new industries, new business and new roles faster and with more confidence.

Over the last three years in running this program, we have realized that in order to impact change at a systemic level and increase gender equity in the workforce, it is critical that we take a holistic approach. Addressing the role that organization, culture and leadership play, but also how the thoughts and beliefs of individuals are impacted by the inequitable system.

We have seen and experienced first hand that the thoughts and beliefs of marginalized individuals can play a complex role in contributing to systemic barriers and access to opportunities in the workforce. 

The thoughts and beliefs develop, in most cases subconsciously, in response to systemic barriers and biases that exist within the workforce. 

We see it all the time in our group coaching program. 

  • The black woman who doesn’t see leaders in her field that look like her. It’s not even on her radar to apply for the role. 
  • The mother who is encouraged by society (and her partner) to stay home with her kids. So she does and isn’t sure what she can do to return to work and how she can do both. She is looking for a part-time admin role.
  • The woman who is trying to keep up with her male colleagues, and burns out. She believes she needs to aim lower, to take on less of a stretch role for the sake of her health and wellbeing.  
  • The pregnant woman who was laid off after jokes about her commitment to work. She believes that she can’t be a good mum and have a career. 
  • The engineer who shows up differently at work to fit in with her male colleagues. She believes that in order to succeed she must adopt the leadership styles of her colleagues. 
  • The woman who loves construction but works in Marketing. It never occurred to her that she could have a career in the trades. 

In most cases, they aren’t even aware of it. That they have adopted a belief that is not actually theirs, but someone else's. 

This has been by far the most rewarding project in my career. To see women leaving our program understanding what it is that they want, not what they think they should do, or what they believe is available to them. 

  • The black woman is aspiring for leadership. She knows which kind of company she wants to grow her career with and is actively networking and pursuing those opportunities. 
  • The mother retrained and is making close to six figures one year after she returned to work. 
  • The burnt out woman created an opportunity for herself, working school hours, doing something she loved and getting paid her worth. 
  • The pregnant woman had two kids and started a business. 
  • The engineer left her organization and started consulting. 
  • The marketing woman became a contractor, starting her own business. 

To really have an impact, to address gender equity in the workforce and reduce systemic barriers, I believe it is essential to implement strategies at both the systemic and individual level. 

We are not changing anyone to fit into an inequitable system. We are “prong-two”, addressing the challenge holistically, vs addressing only one part of the problem. 

We are supporting women to uncover what it is that they want and standing strong in their power and capacity to navigate an inequitable system without compromise and influence change and equality once in leadership. 

We are connecting women to mentors, building their network and giving them increased access to employer opportunities, including the hidden job market. 

Our role, here at tellent, is not to fix a broken system but to take a grassroots approach to changing the system, one woman at a time... and it’s working.

I love what I do. 

These are my reflections and observations from 2023, gained from working with over 150 women in the Propeller Experience, two government assisted retraining initiatives and two amazing corporate sponsors. 

I would love to hear from you. Please join the conversation and share your expertise and strategies for increasing gender equity in the workforce in the comments below. 

Want to learn more about how we're helping women just like you reconnect with their professional potential and reimagine what their career could look like? Book a call in with one of our Senior tellent leaders to learn more. 

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