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Building ourselves—and each other—up as women in the workplace

March 11, 2020

Every month, Consultant Chloe Mills from our Toronto office and Associate Kate Greenwood from our St. John’s office share a phone call.

On each call we talk about our ongoing work, things we’ve learned, and challenges that we’re facing. With celebrations taking place surrounding International Women’s Day last week, we found ourselves talking about some of the ways in which we, as young women working in a challenging and demanding industry, sometimes soften ourselves and our impact—often without even realizing.

Here are a few of the observations we made to help each of us become more aware of some of the little ways in which we may be minimizing ourselves and our power.

1. Using the word “just”

We’ve all done it: following-up on an unanswered email or making a request preceded by a little innocuous “just”. While it may appear to be just a small word, it has notable implications. By saying “just”, we’re suggesting that whatever comes next isn’t important. You may feel a little uncomfortable deleting that word. You may feel like you’re being demanding—you’re not. You’re not “just” doing something, you work at NATIONAL because you’re purpose-driven and you get stuff done.

2. Deflecting credit that you’ve earned

Again, this is something that we all tend to do. It’s good to be humble—however, when you put in the hours and the brainpower to accomplish something, you have earned the credit. If someone compliments your work or your role in a project, don’t brush it off with “It was a team effort” or “I only did a small piece”. You’ve earned the right to celebrate your accomplishments.

3. Not raising your hand

Taking on new work can be intimidating. Although you may find the subject-matter interesting and have done similar work before, many of us will delay raising our hand for fear that other, “more accomplished” people should take on the work. You work at NATIONAL because you’re capable. If you’re interested in the topic and want to work on it, put your hand up.

4. Apologizing for taking up space

As Canadians, we’ve come to terms with the fact that we’re overly polite. “Sorry” has become synonymous with Canadian culture around the world. However, women tend to apologize more for things that we really shouldn’t. You don’t need to apologize for inserting yourself into the conversation or for asking a question. You deserve the right to unapologetically take up space and be heard.

While International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on our impact on the world and host conversations about the small ways in which we can build ourselves and each other up, it’s not the only day to do this. Being cognizant and thoughtful about how we position ourselves in the world is critical every day, whether you're just starting out in the workforce or you’re well into your career and in a position of power. Don’t be afraid to take up space.