What Women, Businesses and Organizations Need to Know About the New Workforce in 2021! - Lean in Canada

From Guest Contributor: Jennifer Hargreaves

With massive social and market disruption comes opportunities for innovation and growth. Women, businesses and even our government are rewriting the story of women and work so they can finally thrive. Here is how …

What Women, Businesses and Organizations Need to Know About the New Workforce in 2021!

In this moment in history we face an unprecedented opportunity to fully rebuild the systems of work for women. This newly reimagined workforce will have lasting and beneficial impacts for women at work, organizations and the economy as a whole.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed just how much work we still have to do when it comes to gender parity in the workforce. In the labour market, women were hit earlier and harder, and their jobs continue to recover more slowly, with labour force participation in Canada currently at a 20-year low.  RBC Economics, Statistics Canada and The Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub have been tracking the data since the pandemic hit last March.


A disproportionate number of women (compared to men) found themselves:

  • Laid off or furloughed due to industry closures, earning losses and layoffs.
  • Shouldering more of the unpaid work in their households such as childcare, elder care, cleaning, cooking and community involvement.
  • Facing barriers to financing, services, and support for their businesses.
  • Unable to find well paid, experienced opportunities.
  • Burnt out or experiencing a rise in mental health concerns.

The impacts on women have even been described as a “she-cession” by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. By the women job-seekers, business owners and professionals in our network it has been described as … exhausting.

Yet when there is massive market and social disruption there is also opportunity for innovation and iteration. This holds true for individuals, as well as for companies as they rebuild more flexible and inclusive workplaces.

We have an opportunity like never before to change our trajectory. 



At tellent, we have a network of over 10,000 experienced professional women who share “what they want and need from the future of work.”

They want flexibility. Not just accommodation to stay at home while their children self-isolate after a COVID outbreak at school, but trust and autonomy to know where and when they are most productive and can deliver their best work.

“Trust is huge, I need an employer who knows that I will do my best work. I don’t need micromanaging, or someone shadowing my every move. I’m going to get the job done and done well.” – Crystal, 10+ years experience in supply chain and logistics

They want growth in all areas of their lives including their careers and their non-work interests. To be supported and encouraged by their leaders to be their best-self inside and outside of work, and to be appreciated for the unique experiences they bring to the table.

“What I know really matters is having a manager/company that wants to talk in detail about what these values of trust, autonomy and flexibility actually look like. Too often those things are promised with good intention but the importance of operationalizing these values into behaviours, detailed agreements, and a shared reality, is ignored.” – Jennifer, 15+ years human resource leadership

They want to make an impact. To know that what they do contributes to something meaningful regardless of their function or role.

“When I work in a company – especially a large/huge/corporate one – I want to know what my boss and team are working on and how it benefits the business, so that I know how my work contributes to the bigger picture. Also, being kept informed about what the bigger picture IS, so that I can think about and possibly suggest additional or improved processes and contributions.” – Martina, 20+ years operational and administrative experience



With this knowledge we developed a career transition accelerator in direct response to the impacts of COVID-19 and rapidly changing workplace trends to help women get what they want from work.

“We designed the Propeller Experience to help women get the clarity, confidence and the connections they need to help them find or build work that works for them!”


Here are 3 steps to get you started in finding or building work that works for you!

  1. Clarity. Get clear on what you want out of work and life. It all starts with finding your aiming point or goal. There are countless paths that can take you where you want to go, and working with our community of coaches, guides and mentors, will help you expand your thinking.
  2. Confidence & Skill-Building. Automation and digitization trends accelerated during the pandemic. This provides both an opportunity and challenge for women transitioning back to work or new career pathways. Working with industry partners, we have identified three areas of learning to support women in transition:
  • Leadership
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Digital skills

Once you have your aiming point or goal, you can start moving more confidently in the direction of your version of success with access to the many skills training and course offerings now available both through our program and other government funded learning opportunities.

Community. Did you know 60-80% of people find their next job or client through their network? A strong network   can help you to get where you’re going much more quickly and strategically. By nurturing relationships and developing industry connections, you will kick open the doors to opportunity.



  1. Embrace flexibility and a culture of work-life balance. As we develop our return-to-work plans, ask your employees what they need in terms of flexibility to be their best and most productive self, inside and outside of work. Recruitment Tip: Highlight your flexible work policies directly on your job descriptions.
  2. Prioritize a culture of belonging. Women often leave jobs because of culture, even when working remotely. Visible leadership support is needed to create a culture where non-inclusive behaviors are unacceptable and people feel comfortable speaking out. Recruitment Tip: Have your leaders speak openly and publicly about what they are doing to enable a culture of belonging for women – including targets and strategies.
  3. Customize professional development pathways. No two individuals are the same and / or have the same version of success. Take the time to understand what is important to the women who work for you and what their version of success looks like.  Recruitment Tip: Have individuals from diverse backgrounds, leadership levels and operational functions share their versions of success and career pathways through a social campaign.


We have an opportunity like never before to re-write the rules and build back a better normal for women and work. How will you lean-in?


About tellent

Jennifer Hargreaves is the Founder and CEO of tellent. She is passionate about increasing women’s economic opportunity and has been disrupting the status quo across a multitude of industries and countries for close to 20 years.

tellent is a diversity recruitment and social impact organization on a mission to close the opportunity equity gap. They connect experienced professional women talent to inclusive employers and flexible work opportunities.

Learn more about how tellent is repairing and rebuilding the gendered damage the COVID 19 pandemic has had on women’s labour force participation through The Propeller Experience and how you can get involved.

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