Supporting Women Within your Organization During the Pandemic

Supporting Women Within your Organization During the Pandemic

To say that this year has been tough for everyone is an understatement. The Covid-19 pandemic has touched every single person in the world and has unapologetically changed everyone’s lives for the foreseeable future. From wearing masks at the grocery store, waving to your friends and family from a two metre distance, and saying “sorry, my wifi cut out” in zoom calls, are all aspects of everyday life that have changed. However, specific groups have been more affected than others. Women and specifically women of colour have been particularly affected by the pandemic. Senior level women are 38 percent more likely to mentor one or more women of colour compared to 23 percent of men. If we let women leave the workforce, this could have detrimental effects on an organization’s profits and overall work culture that we simply can’t afford. 

The challenges women face in the workplace have only intensified in the last six months. Many of these women are working mothers and are now working a “double shift” while balancing their careers, children and keeping up with their homes. As a result of this work/life imbalance, one in four women are contemplating leaving the workforce and leaving behind years of hard work. However, this is extremely alarming for corporate America.

Companies risk losing their women in leadership positions and unwinding all of the progress to implement gender diversity in the workplace. However, this presents itself as an opportunity for organizations. This is the time organizations need to invest in their talent to ensure women have the resources and flexibility during these times to ensure that they don’t leave the workplace. Employers need to foster a sense of nurture culture where women have an equal opportunity to fulfill their potential and career goals.

Losing women in the workforce would translate into a significant financial loss to companies. According to the research, company profits and share performance can be almost 50 percent higher when women are well represented at the top. Alongside the profit, women also carry a lot of importance when it comes to creating a positive work culture, employee-friendly policies, and champion racial and gender diversity.

6 Ways Employers can Support Women in the Workplace

  1. Make work more sustainable

Adapting the everyday work-life is essential when supporting women in the workplace. Employers might want to look at the productivity expectations before Covid-19 and adapt them to be more realistic. This might encompass resetting goals, narrowing project scopes or extending deadlines. Another way organizations can support employees is by offering “Covid-19 Days” to give parents a chance to catch-up with their home life or a day to simply recharge. 

2. Reset norms around flexibility

The pandemic has made it harder to strike a good work-life balance as employees might always feel like they are “on”. One way to help improve the balance is to establish set hours for meetings and responding to emails. Leaders can also communicate their support for workplace flexibility to help mitigate the feeling of “always being on” and that it is encouraged to take advantage of flexible work options. When employees believe their employers are supportive of their flexible practices, they are less likely to consider downshifting their careers or leaving. 

3. Take a close look at performance reviews

Performance reviews are a great tool to help gauge how your employees are doing and rewarding their contributions. However, with the shift to remote work, new challenges have risen and the old criteria before Covid-19 may no longer be applicable to today’s environment. Employers can relieve stress by making the performance criteria more attainable to help prevent anxiety and burnout. Ultimately, this can help with overall performance and productivity. 

4. Take steps to minimize gender bias

Throughout this pandemic, biases against women have been amplified and have shown up in new ways. Either kids playing in the background of zoom calls or co-workers assuming their colleagues are doing less work due to taking care of their children while working from home. Since there is less visibility into the day-to-day there leaves room for bias to creep in.

In order to mitigate the biases women face, managers need to ensure that their employees are aware of them. Employers should speak publicly about the impacts of biases, especially during the pandemic. Bias training and tracking promotions between genders is a good way to track if men and women are being treated fairly.

5. Adjust policies and programs to better support employees

Due to the pandemic and its changes to “normal life”, organizations have extended policies and benefits to help support their employees. Resources for mental health and homeschooling are examples of what organizations have in place to help with the new adjustments. As an employer, ensure that all your employees are made aware of the resources that are available to help them during these challenging times. Organizations should also determine if their resources and benefits are addressing the employee’s needs and reallocate time and money for the challenges your employees might need support in.

6. Strengthen employee communication

When shifting to remote work, communication with your employees is critical to ensure that they still feel connected with their managers and peers. One in five employees have consistently felt uninformed or in the dark during the Covid-19 pandemic. Leaders and HR teams should have regular communication and be empathetic towards their employees to make sure all team members feel valued and understood. It has been shown that this practice can reduce anxiety and build trust among teams.

Ensuring that women in the workforce don’t fall through the cracks is essential during the Covid-19 pandemic. All practices have to adapt to these unprecedented times to allow for more flexibility and understanding in the workplace. We have to ensure that we strive for gender equality in the workplace and that we have women paving the way for the younger generations. We have to look at each other as human beings and not just robots that work from 9 to 5. This pandemic is something that no one has ever experienced before and we are all learning how to maneuver through it the best way we can. Organizations need to adopt more flexible and accommodating practices to make sure all their employees can thrive in this new environment.

The Coaching Industry Destroyed My Confidence (And Made Me a Better Person)

The Coaching Industry Destroyed My Confidence (And Made Me a Better Person)

I have a love/hate relationship with the coaching industry and coaching in general. Having been a coach for over ten years and been coached over eleven years, I have seen the impact first hand of what coaching can do for you. 

My gripes came in when the industry took a turn where it fed on the fears and insecurities of individuals rather than focusing on their strengths and potential for growth. 

We saw that the industry was constantly telling people how they were somehow “wrong” if they didn’t easily make 6 figures (without talking about the amount of work and back end is takes to make that happen), living the laptop lifestyle (again having a marketable skill, automation, support and delegation are an important part of the success of this lifestyle) and everything that was “wrong” with you was based on energy, feelings, and belief systems.

I fell into it too. I went through a phase of trying to fix myself because I felt that I wasn’t good enough. I was reading all the marketing that was constantly telling me that in order to make me buy solutions so I wouldn’t feel that way. I worked with experienced coaches and newbies – I let all these people into my energy and my consciousness. I would get off a coaching call, feeling a little less like myself since I had taken on the energy of yet another person who was trying to get in my head. Who wanted to frame what I needed to solve in myself and why I needed to work with them. 

The kicker really came to me in January this year, when I finally figured out the real reason why I would feel overwhelmed or feel a little depressed. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe in myself, there was something wrong with me, or that past trauma was impacting me. It was because I had side effects from concussions that I didn’t realize were impacting me. My brain would become overstimulated in crowds, computer screens made me exhausted and unable to function, and fluorescent lights were energy suckers for me. 

It was a sigh of relief knowing this was a concussion issue. What angered me was that I had invested heavily in the coaching industry thinking I had to fix something within myself when in reality, it was a physical challenge from past injuries. 

What happened after is where the magic was. As I recovered from the concussions, I became more discerning about where I needed growth and where I needed compassion. I also became more discerning about what type of coaching I needed, what type of support I needed.

Do I regret all that I invested in coaching? No, not at all. It taught me who I really am at the core. It taught me to recognize what resonates and what doesn’t. And most importantly, it taught me how to trust myself. Yes, I could have invested a lot less and made fewer mistakes, but I have compassion for myself because in the end of it all, I gained so much as a person. 

The coaching industry has flaws, but there is a real place for it as well. If I hadn’t wanted to grow into the person I am today, I wouldn’t have invested in myself. I strengthened my leadership skills, increased my productivity, learned to work smarter rather than harder, understanding my strengths and weaknesses, I learned to ask for help with more ease, trust others more when I have delegated, I also learned when I needed to leave a situation and know how to assess when to enter a new one. 

Coaching is something I believe in strongly. I recommend everyone have a coach on a retainer that they can bounce ideas off, use as a soundboard, be accountable to, and who creates a container to allow your growth. Sometimes (most times), it is best to have someone outside of your normal day-to-day life provide the insights and shed light on your blindspots. 

When choosing a coach, I recommend becoming clear on what your goal with coaching is. Then seek recommendations for coaches from people you trust. Know for yourself what is important for your own transformation- if they use tools, worksheets, emotional intelligence tests, etc. You may not know their tool in and out, but asking about their methods should be a part of the interview process. I encourage you to try interviewing a few coaches to find a fit of style of coaching. 

Here are some key questions to ask when interviewing your prospective coaches:

  1. What type of people have you worked with before?
  2. What type of success have your past clients had?
  3. Where did you learn coaching techniques? (I strongly recommend engaging someone who has gone through a coaching program and has a coaching certificate. The ICF (International Coaches Certification) is great as well, but not all great coaches have it. Usually corporates, not individuals, are the ones that look for the ICF certification). 
  4. What was their background before coaching? (The industry is unregulated, therefore it is important for you that they bring relevant experience and education.)
  5. What are their fees? (Remember that you are paying for their education, experience, skills, and talent over the years, so their coaching fees should reflect that experience.)

Everyone can benefit from coaching at different points in their career, but as it is a significant investment in yourself, make sure you find someone you want to work with and who you feel can provide the support you need!

If you are considering pursuing coaching with Veza Community, schedule your complimentary coaching consult today! We’d be happy to answer the above questions and anything else you might be curious about.

Veza Leaders to Watch: Hurriya Burney

Veza Leaders to Watch: Hurriya Burney

At Veza, we honour the work of inspiring leaders every single day. Not just the known and notable but rather, everyday women who are drawing upon and celebrating their culture while making a lasting difference in their community using their gifts. From authors and teachers, CEOs to entrepreneurs, not-for-profit directors, artists, and more, these women are changing the face of leadership.

These are truly women to watch and Veza Community is so pleased to share their brilliance.

May their stories inspire YOU to rise.

Meet Hurriya Burney

Hurriya Burney is Vice President, Commercial Banking, at RBC Royal Bank. She leads a team of 13 Commercial Accounts and leads RBC’s Healthcare segment strategy in BC. Hurriya holds an MBA in Finance from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelors in Economics & Business and English from Lafayette College.

Tell me in 100 words who you are? How would you describe yourself. 
A sales leader in financial services passionate about diversity and inclusion, I am committed to mentoring and supporting others to achieve their career goals. I am also a writer who aims to inspire and motivate others by sharing my leadership, career, and life lessons on Medium.com/@burneyhurriya. I believe in giving back to my community through engagement with organizations such as Veza and Female Funders. An immigrant to Canada, I am proud to call Vancouver home for the last 10 years. I am energized by travel, building new connections, learning from others’ stories, and taking on new challenges.
What motivates/inspires you to get up each morning? 
The thought of having a positive impact on someone’s life and contributing to someone’s career growth. I love to spend time with my team in market, solving problems and delighting clients together.
What contribution are you most proud of to date?
I am extremely proud of mentoring a bright, ambitious young woman through Veza and having a material impact on her confidence and self-belief.
What is it that you feel that you teach others through how you act/show up each day?
My goal is to be a role model for minority women, showing them that they can ascend to senior levels in the corporate world. I also aim to be a relatable leader who is not afraid to make herself vulnerable and to share her flaws. I teach others about hard work, perseverance, and the value of being bold and advocating for yourself.
What’s one change you would like to see in this world?
Acceptance of all of the differences that make us unique – but also makes us human. I firmly believe in never judging others when you haven’t lived their lives and in treating everyone exactly the same, whether it is a janitor or a CEO.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
‘When’ by Daniel Pink. ‘The 10X Rule’ by Grant Cardone. ‘A House in the Sky’ by Amanda Lindhout

Find her on Instagram

If you know a leader we should feature please invite her to share her story with us here.

Personal Advocacy: How to Break Through the Double Glass Ceiling

Personal Advocacy: How to Break Through the Double Glass Ceiling

As women of culturally diverse backgrounds, many of us aren’t taught the skills we need to move up. It’s not expected that we will move up, because there are a number of barriers facing us and we are not used to seeing women who look like us in positions of power. When we do have success and find ourselves rising to new levels, we often end up learning by trial and error, which leaves many of us feeling like we’ve been dropped right into the deep end. 

The first time we negotiated salary was when we landed our first career jobs. (How many of us accepted the first offer we were given?) The first time we managed staff was the first time we became a manager – there’s no bootcamp. In most companies, there’s no additional training for new managers. So, we find new challenges at each new threshold we reach in our careers.

To have a competitive advantage, we cannot be passive. Personal advocacy is a skill set we all need to move up, to create better long-term results for ourselves, and to communicate our worth to the people we work with/for. 

What underpins strong personal advocacy?

1. Build a foundation for your thought leadership

Get clear on your strengths and what areas you want to build thought leadership on. Speak and post about your interests. Demonstrate your expertise online and in-person. People in your network will begin to associate you with your area of expertise and your skill set. By building your thought leadership, you will have a foundation to stand on when seeking new opportunities. (If you aren’t clear on your value or where you want to go, download our complimentary worksheet to identify your interests, values and strengths.)

2. Prepare

Do your research and your prep work. If you’re negotiating salary or asking for a raise, know what industry standards are and build your case based on your experience. If you are putting yourself forward to lead on a project, be able to discuss how your skill set makes you the right fit for the opportunity and to break down how you would approach it. Anticipate questions or reservations your audience might have. When you come in prepared, not only will you feel more confident, but you will present as professional and knowledgeable. 

3. Embody your worth

Embodying your worth can be a challenge – see last week’s blog on Imposter Syndrome for a case study. It is the most effective piece in creating results through personal advocacy. Not simply the belief in yourself, but the full presence you command when you own that worth is that secret sauce that makes others believe in your worth as well.


If you’d like to learn more about personal advocacy and deep dive into some of the key tools you need, Veza Community is hosting a morning talk on September 26th featuring 3 women leaders from different sectors. Get your tickets for Personal Advocacy: The tools you need on your leadership journey today.

Until September 6th at 11:59pm, use early bird discount for 20% off tickets: AdvocacyEarlyBird

*When we refer to “women,” we mean all people who identify as such.

Do you feel like the “awkward BIPOC person” as a woman in tech? Here are four tips to help you to have a POSITIVE work experience

Do you feel like the “awkward BIPOC person” as a woman in tech? Here are four tips to help you to have a POSITIVE work experience

By: Munifa Ahmed.

Endorsement of Diversity and inclusion (D&I) and cultural practices within an organization have increasingly become a critical and important reputable aspect to the success of many businesses, especially in the Tech scene. There has been a lot of research and many other resources on how to adapt, retain and measure the value of D&I. 

But based on the World Economic Forum report, the global gender parity is estimated to take 100 years to close that gap in the tech sector, at the current rate of change. This is while gender equality is one of the key determinants of diversity in an organization.

An aspect, I think, that might be under shared, is the actual story of the -nitty gritty- experience and insights of how navigating tech, looks like as a BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color), visible minority or LGBTQ2A+ person. 

So, it is as important to speak about and dive deeper into the experience of actually working in these spaces. In this blog, I will try to share my experience and insights as a young, recent immigrant, Muslim, hijabi woman who is navigating her way to social entrepreneurship in the tech world. As women, people of colour, visible minorities and/or religious groups, what is our role and work in this process of change? Do we lay back and wait for changes to occur? 

Having the privilege to represent more than six social labels and breaking through the mainstream biases and narration made based on gender, race and background was not a smooth process. It required high self-awareness, patience and inconsideration in some instances, here are some tips from my experience and research I have done: 

  1. Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable. This is the rule of thumb when it comes to personal and professional development. The same principle applies here, from researching the market to learning new tech skills. Then comes the actual job of job searching. After spending six months researching, I learned to stop feeling comfortable by trying to find people who look like me and kept asking questions when I get stuck (there is no such thing as a stupid question). Nearly half of Tech companies are hiring non-technical skills, so working on your communication, presentation and body language is also valuable. It is okay if you do not code. All these steps require little bit thicker skin, but will help you move towards a rewarding and exciting career.

  2. Engage with Asking, Questioning and Curiosity. As obvious as it might seem, it is necessary to be proactive in building professional relationships at your workplace and tech network. It could be as simple as trying to understand and engage in a group tech joke (like a Spider makes a website not landing page, lol) to as complex negotiating your unique perspective confidently. Being assertive, flexible, friendly and funny is where the magic happens when it comes to engaging here and in life, generally.

  3. ALWAYS be a Proactive Learner . There is an Arabic saying, “coming late will not cut the work.” Your presence is already perceived as an unequivocal challenge to the tech sector. And doing the work on our own mindsets is essential in an ever growing and evolving industry. Pivoting from my Administration and Marketing background was a steep turn and most challenging. But that was not all, I realized after graduation that thousands of bootcamp developer graduates are competing for a similar position. So, I decided to utilize my coding skills as a compelling selling feature in a different position which led me to take Veza’s Digital Marketing course. This learning mindset is the key to growth and success in the Tech sector.

  4. Be YOURSELF. “Connect and Communicate like you’ve known them for 1000 years” – this was my secret recipe while building a network or meeting for an interview. My LinkedIn connections have more doubled since pivoting toward a tech career, nine months ago. This mindset is so powerful when it comes to creating a meaningful connection. From sharing your thoughts to asking for help and from owning your weakness to speaking in public, those are one of the basic principles that guide my decision while interacting with people in general. 

All in all, those are insights from my personal experience which has helped me to navigate the sector and successfully land my first job in tech as a Data Analyst and Marketer at the startup Apples & Oranges Analytics. By sharing our experiences, hopefully, we can all contribute to creating a more inclusive culture. As there is overall more interest, policy integration and active participation from the employer side, complementing the movement and progress through sharing our stories will inspire and involve broader communities


Munifa Ahmed is a recent migrant to Canada in 2017. She is a Spring 2019 graduate of Veza Community’s Digital Marketing Program for Immigrant Women. Through her passion for creativity and personal-development, she had pivoted toward tech and landed her career as a Digital Analyst and Marketer. To learn more about her and her climate action project, visit www.munifaahmed.io.