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10 networking tips for introverts

There is a reason I am a writer. I tend to express myself best through the written word, where I can carefully craft my sentences and ensure I use the proper vocabulary.

In person, I’m a bit of a spaz. I tend to ramble and use a lot of “ums” and “ahhs” as I search for the word I’m looking for. The mere thought of edging myself into a group or conversation with people I don’t know sends slight chills down my spin. It’s  only after circling the room numerous times that I can build up the courage to walk up to someone and introduce myself.

Unfortunately for introverts like me, networking is truly the only way to get ahead in business. So, Women’s Post has compiled a few select tips that should help you at that next conference or public event.

 

Do a bit of research before hand

What kind of people will be at the event? Do a little bit of research on the potential players of the industry. This will allow you to find some common ground and potential conversation starters. For example, I heard you merged your business last year — how has the transition been? I find that this research also helps calm me down. The more I read, the more comfortable I feel about networking.

Start small

Set small and reasonable expectations for yourself. For example, get at least five business cards or speak with three executives. This way, the networking event doesn’t seem so daunting. You can also set a time limit for yourself — stay at the event for at least an hour before making an excuse to leave. The more events you attend, the bigger your expectations may be.

Arrive on time

People generally have this innate instinct to arrive fashionably late.  The argument derives from past experience — I arrived on time and no one else was there or the hosts were still setting up. Generally, networking events are well managed and are meant for punctual people. If you arrive late, the other participants may already be huddling in their groups, making it difficult to get in the conversation. If you are part of the select group that arrives on time, it will be easier to

Ask open-ended questions 

Conversation is the most important aspect of a networking event.  Make sure to push those nerves aside and actually listen to what people are talking about. Don’t simply ask what people do for a living. Ask lots of open-ended questions relating to their work, politics, or hot topics being discussed at that moment — anything that will incite further conversation. Always remember, especially upon an initial interaction, it’s best to focus on the person/people you are speaking with instead of becoming the center of attention.

Fake confidence

Not everyone can have the confidence of an extrovert, but you can fake it. Stand up straight, hold your head up high, and speak with authority. Be yourself — if you’ve got a bit of a stutter like I do, don’t worry about it. Just be kind, smile, and pretend as if it’s no big deal. Simply walk up to someone and ask if you can join them. If you need a line, try this: “I’m here by myself and your group looked like they were having the most fun. May I join you?” Be sure to tell them to continue their discussion and you will catch up.

It’s okay to use a little liquid courage, but remember this is a professional event. If you drink, don’t get drunk.

Practice your pitch

If someone asks you what you do or what organization you are with, you should be able to answer with ease and a commanding authority. Keep the answer short, between one and two minutes. Quickly outline who you work for and what your responsibilities include. Make it sound impressive and be sure to mention any special skills you may possess. Have a story in mind if someone asks you for an example of your work. You never know who you will meet, and if you happen to be speaking with a potential employer, it’s important to note how invaluable your skills are to your current or past company.

Know your business card etiquette

DO make sure to bring business cards. DO NOT throw them at everyone you meet. Networking opportunities shouldn’t be about gathering as many contacts as you can. Instead, make it about building relationships. Give out your cards only if you feel as if you truly connected with a person and you see a future relationship brewing. Feeling uneasy about whipping out those cards? Try saying this: “I would love to get in contact with you, do you have a card?” By asking them for the card first, it gives you the opportunity to hand one back in return. I find this a lot easier than asking if they want my contact information.

Connect with organizers

Networking events typically follow a theme and are industry specific. Making friends with the organizers of the event will give you a heads up as to when future meetings may take place. They may also be able to introduce you to key players or tell you who to look out for. This type of information can be invaluable.

Follow-up with connections

During the networking event, don’t try to sell anything. Your one job is to be presentable, approachable, and impressive. A few days later, take a look at the business cards you collected or look up the names of the people you met on social media. Send them an email reminding them of who you are and of how enjoyable their conversation was.

Keep the message short and offer to buy them coffee so you can continue the conversation. If you do want to sell something (a product, or yourself for a job), be up front about it.  Say you have a proposition for them, and would love to buy them lunch to discuss it. No one can refuse free food!

Just do it!

Go to networking events and put yourself out there. Sure, it will be incredibly nerve-wracking at first, but, and it may seem cliché, practice makes perfect.

 

Did we miss anything? Tell us your networking tips in the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Julia Langer, CEO of TAF

The Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) is celebrating its 25th anniversary — and with that milestone comes an opportunity to expand its mandate to include the greater Hamilton area. TAF is an organization that looks for urban solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and while it focuses most of its efforts on Toronto, Julia Langer, CEO of TAF, knows that it’s time to expand.

“It’s about recognizing that opportunities for solving climate change are not limited to the 416.”

A self-described “perennial optimist”, Langer thinks Ontario and Toronto have won a lot of battles on the environmental front, but in the end they may be losing the war.

“It can be solved,” she said in an interview. “[Climate change can] get waylaid with a bunch of things along the way, whether its political will, lack of capital right now, short term versus long term priorities…It’s all about where we work and where we play — making sure that we can live and work in a way that is a low-carbon lifestyle.”

Langer always had an awareness of the environment, as well as a passion for life. When she was 10, her parents would discuss social and environmental issues, often bringing their daughter along with them to clean up Don River and dredge through the garbage. This mentality was passed on to Langer, who developed a keen interest in marine biology.

“I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau the Second,” she said.  However, Langer learned early on that she would most likely end up in a lab, and she was more interested in integrating science and policy. So, she transferred to the University of Toronto and continued her studies in toxicology there.

“Academic and scientific work is super important in highlighting and understanding problems, but it was a bit frustrating that academics don’t do policy reforms,” she said. Her attention was focused on taking information provided by these scientists and experts, and enacting positive change — something she has been able to do rather successfully throughout her illustrious career.

After university, Langer landed a number of summer jobs, including a position in James Bradly’s office, the minister of environment at the time. Her work involved providing policy analysis and advice on files involving toxins, pesticides, and sewage treatments, among other things. She went on to work for Friends of the Earth in Ottawa and was hired by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) working with the toxicology program, where she was eventually promoted to Director of the Cuba EcoRegional Program. She also spearheaded the WWF Climate Change program.

At TAF, Langer has a wide portfolio. She is responsible for managing campaigns, defining strategy, working on policy, and communicating with the public about pollution and greenhouse gas reduction. Recently, she has spoken at a number of town halls about the impact of climate change.

While others may see this portfolio as daunting, Langer speaks about it with great fervour.  It’s all about focusing on three main things Toronto (and the surrounding GTHA) needs to do to reduce its greenhouse emissions, she said: improve the energy efficiency of our economy, decarbonize our energy system, and make smart land use decisions.

Langer also co-founded Eco-Babes in Toronto, an organization that facilitates networking among women who work in the sustainability industry.  Once a month, women interested in the environment or in energy can meet up, ask for advice, exchange business cards, and usually enjoy a good glass of wine or pint of beer.

At the same time, Langer says the demographics in the environmental industry are pretty evenly matched. “A challenge in the environmental community isn’t gender, but diversity,” she said. “It hasn’t yet permeated into the staffing within the environmental community. I think it is changing, but it’s not there yet.”

When she isn’t working, Langer is an avid vegetable gardener and recent canning aficionado. “There is something satisfying about growing and making food, and packing it away like a squirrel,” she said with a laugh.  Beyond that, she is quite active. During the summer, she goes canoeing and hiking with her husband and daughter, passing on the tradition of environmental awareness, as it were.

Langer is reading Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Adult Onset.

Woman of the Week: Erin O’Neill

It’s been about five months since the city of Fort McMurray was consumed by flame and smoke.  On May 3, over 80,000 people were forced to flee their homes. Television newscasts showed the wildfire quite literally jumping roads, inching closer and closer to the residential parts of the wooded region in Alberta. Luckily, there were no deaths.

Fort McMurray seems to be slowly healing, but there are still some households that are inhabitable. But, the recovery plan — which focuses on building the community back up — is in good hands.

Erin O’Neill was in Red Deer when she heard about the fire, accepting her new role as president elect of the Alberta Professional Planners Institute. She couldn’t go home and couldn’t get any information. “I was following twitter. I watched the news like everyone else,” she said. “I remember going to sleep thinking I would wake up and not have anything.”

Then she got a phone call on the Saturday afternoon asking her to come back to Fort McMurray.  She jumped on a city bus from Edmonton into the city. “I had no idea where I was staying, didn’t know what my job was. I got there and they said ‘you are going to be the planning chief of re-entry’.”

Her official position, Chief of Planning for the Regional Emergency Operations Center, meant she was in charge of all re-entry procedures — creating a Recovery Task Force, getting critical businesses like pharmacies and grocery stores up and running, and eventually helping people back into their homes.

“You know when you go on vacation? You turn out your lights and gas. We did everything for the whole city and then had to turn it back on again,” she said.  Then, the city had to restock all of their merchandise and get businesses running again, a difficult feat considering smoke had gotten into everything.

O’Neill showed up at 4:30 in the morning on June 1, the first day of re-entry, expecting everything to go wrong. But, according to her, it was almost anti-climactic.

“It was the smoothest day,” she said. “I was like, ‘this is it?’

When speaking with O’Neill over the phone, it was obvious why she was chosen for this important role. She speaks with authority and sincerity — and genuinely cares for her community.  She also happens to be incredibly kind-hearted and humble about her role in the successful re-entry of Fort McMurray.

O’Neill went to school with the intent of becoming a teacher, but in her third year of university she decided it just wasn’t for her. Instead, she went into planning and development. “I think it’s that you can see a piece of land and see it develop and help the people,” she said. “You are protecting the public interest and then you are making a difference. You can see that end result.”

After working in Ottawa processing standard permits, she made the bold decision to move to Fort McMurray. This was nine years ago.

Before she was appointed her emergency chief of planning role, O’Neill was Manager of Land Acquisition and Issues Management, or rather the person who manages land use and real estate interests for Fort McMurray, acting as broker between developers and the province. Now that most of the city’s residents are back in their homes, O’Neill is excited to expand her role, transitioning to handle three sections of the recovery plan following the fire — rebuild, mitigate, and the economy. Essentially, she is creating a legacy for the city, figuring out how to move forward after such a debilitating natural disaster.

It’s quite the portfolio, but it’s obvious O’Neill is more than capable.

What is a “women’s publication?”

As the editor of a women’s publication, I often struggle with its content. Should I appeal to the masses and publish fashion and beauty tips, tips for great sex, or outline the best weight loss diets? Or should I break the mould?

When Women’s Post was founded in 2002, it was done so with a single purpose — to showcase talented women across Canada. The founder of this publication, Sarah Thomson, started it after noticing the disappointing selection of magazines targeting women. They were all pitting woman against woman, competing for the newest fashion trends and workout regimes.

Women’s Post was meant to show that women are interested in more than just their looks. The publication would feature profiles of professionals, asking what they do to help other women succeed in their respective industries. Since then, Women’s Post has grown into so much more. We still feature talented women and have a clear focus on mentorship, but we also publish articles on city politics, the environment, technology, business, and, yes, fashion.

I draw the line at weight loss diets though.

The key is balance — admitting that women are interested in a variety of things, whether that is the latest hairstyles and trends or the rising stock prices. It’s also about recognizing the influential power the media has on women, particularly young girls.

An image has been circulating social media over the past few weeks that has caused a lot of outrage, both inside and outside the newsroom. The image shows the front page covers of two different magazines: “Girls Life” and “Boys Life”.

Girls Life focused on makeup, hair, and overall beauty tips while the Boys Life cover featured job opportunities in the sciences and in technology. While the magazines are not owned by the same company, it displayed some of the blatant gender differences that are engrained in the media.

In Canada, we do a slightly better job. Our “women’s magazines” have articles that encompass a variety of interests, from work advice to recipes. Of course, there will always be specific fitness and health magazines that target specific female demographics, but Canadian publications seem to understand they don’t need to compete with these pre-existing celebrity gossip magazines.

Women’s Post proudly joins the list of Canadian news organizations that have come to understand that gender doesn’t dictate interests. But, I’m even more proud to be part of a publication that also focuses on making sure others know this too. Women’s Post profiles women from every profession, focusing not only on the challenges they had to overcome to get where they are now, but also their many accomplishments.

Women compete enough without the aide of rows of magazines telling them they could be thinner or smarter. With an ever-growing wage gap and the constant discrimination women face in the workplace, isn’t it more important to celebrate womanhood rather than destroy it?

Women’s Post strives to not only be a publication that supports and showcases great women, but a publication where anyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, can find news that interests them. I truly believe this is the future of journalism — anything else is simply insulting, don’t you think?

Fall fashion #trending: oversized clothing is in!

I love the fall — pumpkin spice lattes, the changing of the leaves, and of course the return of cute boots. It is the one season you don’t have to worry about pouring rain, watery sludge, or below-freezing storms. Not to mention the sweltering heat wave this summer has brought us.

This changing of the seasons also signifies the end of shorts, tank tops, and bathing suits — all of the nice, but tight, fashion styles. Am I the only one ready for the return of jeans, light overcoats, and scarves? But, to my incredible delight, the biggest trend this fall is oversized clothing. That’s right, you can now flatter your body under comfortable, yet fashionable, layers.

Here are a few examples of top trending oversized outfits for this fall:

The Poncho: No, these ponchos are not water proof, but they are fashionable! These ponchos act like a blazer or overcoat, and can be worn with tank tops, t-shirts, and long-sleeve tops. They can add style, texture, and colour to your outfit. Depending on the style, they can also be appropriate for work as well as a casual outing with friends. The best part? Ponchos have the added benefit of being incredibly comfortable and flattering for all body types.

Le Chateau, $89.95
Le Chateau, $89.95

 

The Sweater: Who doesn’t love an oversized sweater? These items usually fall well below the hip and can be worn with pants or leggings depending on the length. If these sweaters are light and a bit short, try to layer it with a blouse or a tank top of a different colour. If it is long, try to wear it with your hair up and a chunky necklace. These sweaters are great for long-hour work days, outings with friends, or a casual walk on a cool fall evening.

MANGO, $309.95
MANGO, $309.95

 

The Suit: Gone are the days of tight pants and blazers that push your breasts forward. This fall business style is all about comfort. Loose pants and a top to match, maybe paired with a belt or some colourful jewelry, will make a true statement in the boardroom. The outfit extremely comfortable — allowing you to move, stretch and sit — and no one will tell you “no” when you are dressed to impress.

Zara
Zara

 

The Blouse: Heading to the market or going on a walk with your beau? The long blouse or plaid shirt is making yet another come back. Simple, comfortable, and stylish, you can’t really go wrong with this choice. Pair it with a single-coloured jacket, some skinny jeans or leggings, and a pair of boots within the same colour scheme and you have the perfect fall date outfit.

Aritzia, $110
Aritzia, $110

The Trousers: I’m in love with these trousers! Sleek and stylish, they take comfortable business style to a whole new level. They generally flare out at the thigh, creating a straight edge look that really works with either heels or flats. A lot of boutiques now carry these trousers — in multiple colours and styles. Just remember not to pair patterns with patterns when choosing a top.

Zara, $69.90
Zara, $69.90

The Wrap: Wear whatever you want, and then cover yourself in these beautiful bohemian wraps. Part poncho, part blanket, these wraps are perfect for evenings. Twist it to create a scarf, wrap it around your shoulder like a pashmina. The possibilities are truly endless. Something like this would be great for cold offices. Leave it at work and remain stylish while warm!

Three Bird Nest, $56 + shipping
Three Bird Nest, $56 + shipping

 

What are you wearing this fall? Let us know in the comments below!

Headline Coffee — the future of journalism?

You get up in the morning, grab the newspaper (or your Ipad/tablet for your digital news), and then saunter into the kitchen to make your brewed beverage of choice.

But, wait! There is no coffee beside that fancy Keurig machine. What now?

The Toronto Star has you covered. Tuesday, the news organization launched Headline Coffee, a delivery service that will bring ethically-sourced ground or whole-bean coffee from around the world directly to your doorstep. No need to make that timmies run!

For $20, subscribers will get a bag of coffee — good for about 35 cups — from a new single-origin country each month. Those beans are then roasted locally to perfection.

At first glance, the idea of a news organization selling something other than news seems a bit strange. But, amid job cuts and declining advertising revenue, this seems like a brilliant way to make a little extra cash. Headline Coffee is disrupting the system and shattering the illusion — the news industry is in trouble. Despite what people may think, news publications can’t hire employees, or keep the ones they do have for that matter. Printing and staffing a large paper is expensive, and without extra revenue, there is no way the Star, no matter it’s reputation, can maintain its product.

Like many smaller publications have figured out, it’s time to embrace this reality and get creative. Magazines like Spacing are supporting themselves with private donations, launch parties, and memorabilia sales. Sponsored content is becoming the norm and there is nothing editors can do about it.

Cue Headline Coffee: a unique and effective way to entice readers to help pay some of the costs for a larger news conglomerate. It also just happens to target their specific audience — news and coffee lovers. I can attest to being part of that audience and I have to say that I am intrigued by this offer.

As the Star said in their press release announcing their new Headline Coffee, “whether they relax and read their newspaper at home, clutch it during their commute, enjoy a quick news update on their mobile phone or swipe through Toronto Star Touch on their tablet, reading the Toronto Star and enjoying a cup of coffee are parts of their day for about 75 per cent of the Star’s readers.”

It will be interesting to see if the quality and quantity of news increases as coffee sales rise. Will Headline Coffee help the Star stay afloat? Who knows, but in the meantime, let’s brew a good cup of Joe, settle into a comfortable chair with our paper, and see what happens.

5 types of dresses you can wear to work

The sun is finally out and the flowers are starting to sprout! It’s here Canada!!! Spring is here! And you know what that means: It’s time to shed those layers!

But, what’s considered professional enough for the workplace? I wouldn’t recommend shorts (unless they are the dressy sort), but when it’s hot outside, the worst thing in the world is having to wear a full pant-suit. On these days, the spring dress is the perfect option.

Here are five styles of dresses that are acceptable for the workplace:

The business-classy: A fitted dress with a belt is a workplace classic. It’s professional, yet stylish, and creates an air of confidence. This particular dress can be worn with a blazer and a pair of black pumps, or dressed down with a light cardigan and sandals.

344546_926_1_300x400
Le Chateau, $150

The sleeves: This year, sleeves are in. There is no need to go strapless or sleeveless, two options which may not always be appropriate for a business meeting. If you don’t want to deal with blazers or cardigans, try a dress with sleeves. They come off as professional, yet chic, and they are really easy to accessorize.

Zara, $69.99
Zara, $69.99

The floral tunic: A lot of women shy away from patterns and floral patterns, especially when it comes to work wear. But, never fear! You can absolutely rock the floral tunic at that business meeting. The best part is that florals exude springtime and will lift everyone’s spirits. Just make sure to pair it with some simple accessories and bold colours.

Mango, $89.95
Mango, $89.95

The bold colour flare: On the other side, there is nothing wrong with a bold-coloured flare dress. This is yet another simple classic that can be dressed up or down depending on your need. It is the most elegant of the options, and the short sleeves eliminate the need for a shawl or blazer. Pair it with some even bolder jewelry.

Cleo, $99.90
Cleo, $99.90

The maxi-dress: These dresses may come off as a bit too casual for work, but they are becoming much more trendy. This type of ensemble is great for an office setting — it’s comfortable and flattering on most body types. Try wearing a bold or dark coloured lipstick to make the outfit more high-fashion.

French Connection, $328
French Connection, $328

 

Do you have a favourite spring dress? Let us know what they look like in the comments below!

 

5 ways to manage stress at work

It can happen to the best of us: you read an email and realize your boss isn’t happy with your work; you made a mistake that costs your company money; you get into an argument with a co-worker over something you know is right. It is enough to make you frustrated, stressed, anxious, and above all else, unhappy.

No matter the job, work can be stressful. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are five ways to manage your stress in the workplace:

Don’t respond to your email right away: Businesses are operating in a nearly completely digital world and there is an expectation that everyone should be by their computers or phones 24/7. Just because your phone notifications are buzzing, doesn’t mean you should respond. This is especially true if the email is negative. The problem with email is that the tone of the author is unknown, so people start to imagine possible meanings behind the words written. An email may read negative, but it may be a mere observation or an idea. Take a moment to distract yourself and then return to the email. You may find the message less negative this time and you can craft your response accordingly. If you are really concerned, call or meet the sender in person to discuss their request. That way you can judge the tone for yourself.

Schedule breaks: Everyone does it — works through lunch, stays an hour longer in the evening, or offers to do extra assignments. The “I don’t leave work until my work is done” mentality may be good for productivity, but it isn’t good for your mental health, especially if your goals are set really high. There will always be work to do, so take 15 minutes and go for a walk. Get some coffee, read the news, talk with a friend, or just enjoy the sunshine for a bit. That way, you can return to work refreshed and ready to start your next project.

Breath deeply: Sometimes, you won’t be in a scenario where you can take a walk or wait 15 minutes before reacting to a situation. If you feel your breath getting shorter and your head getting lighter, this could be a sign of stress and/or anxiety. Take a step back (figuratively) and take five deep breaths. If anyone interrupts you, just say you need a minute to gather your thoughts. Then, speak calmly and confidently. Keep your tone neutral if possible. You’ve got this!

Train your body and mind: Exercise, both physical and mental, can help calm the nerves and maintain focus. Doing 20 minutes of yoga or starting your day with a mantra of gratitude can help focus your mind on the tasks you have to do that day, while going for a run or a walk after work (or on your lunch break) can help burn off steam. The body responds to stress in different ways — headaches, stomach aches, and sore muscles are some examples. By keeping your blood moving and dedicating half an hour a day to physical activity, it can help prevent those type of side effects. Not to mention it will keep you in shape.

Try to be more creative: Sometimes it’s not the job, but the job environment that causes stress. Try to make it your own and be more creative with your work. Don’t be afraid to approach your boss with a new idea or project. Most of the time, this gumption will be well received, even if your idea isn’t. When you aren’t at work, do something fun. Simply crashing in front of your television won’t help clear your mind of the activities of the day. Why not try your hand at painting or gardening, read a book, or play a new sport? All of these activities will increase your energy, confidence, and ability to problem solve.

Above all else, remember to be confident in your abilities. It’s okay to make mistakes and to stand up for yourself. It’s also okay to take some time for yourself to ensure you are less stressed and are able to be productive during the hours you do work.

Do you have any tips for relieving stress at work? Let us know in the comments below.

Woman of the Week: Beatrix Dart

Beatrix Dart believes that women are the better innovators, even though they’ve been cultivated to remain in the shadows.

“They are more creative in their thinking, but they are also more detail-oriented and willing to follow up on the smaller components, and that makes or breaks a good project idea,” Dart explained. “Women also have the advantage of being better in collaboration and not being afraid to raise their hands and say they need help. There is not as much pride or ego involved.”

Dart is a professor of strategy and executive director of the Initiative for Women in Business at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. She exudes passion for her field and her energy is contagious. Speaking with her in her office at U of T, her mid-morning snack — yogurt from the cafe downstairs — remained untouched as she spoke with great animation about the future of women in business.

Dart’s list of academia accomplishments is impressive: She has a degree in physics and quantitative economics, a degree in information sciences, and a PhD in Economics and statistics. “I was a very quantitative person by background. I felt very comfortable in that environment because it was really logical.”

Her first job after graduation was with McKinsey & Company, an international management consulting firm. Dart fell in love with the job, but she found it challenging to move from the intensive, solitary lifestyle of PhD research to a more active role in public relations.

“That changed my perspective — I went from thinking that being brilliant means being logical, analytical, and smart, to being brilliant actually means being a person people can trust, want to work with, and who will take the recommendation and move forward.”

Dart’s first introduction into gender politics was when she became pregnant with her first child. She was approached by McKinsey & Company and asked to participate in an internal project about how to keep female consultants once they become mothers. The results showed a definite bias towards women after pregnancy.

“Suddenly people make assumptions about you and suddenly all these gender barriers you’ve heard about kick in. They really exist,” Dart said. “Who is taking care of the child? Who is taking time off to go to the doctor? The assumptions are always made for you. They think: ‘Oh, I don’t think she will be ready to take on this project because now she has a newborn at home.’ They will not even ask you.”

This internal project kickstarted a deeper passion within Dart for gender studies. When she returned to academia at Rotman, she noticed a lack of women in the program. This spurred the Initiative for Women in Business, a set of programs that Dart helped found in 2008 specifically tailored to advance the career of women in business. The initiative now has 1,500-2000 professional women within their network. The most popular program is the back to work course, which helps women who have been out of the industry for three to eight years return to the market.

Dart also chairs the steering committee for the 30% Club in Canada, an organization that works to help women get on corporate boards.

One of the biggest challenges for women in the workforce is salary negotiation, ensuring they receive fair compensation for the work they produce. The wage discrepancies we hear about on a daily bases do exist, and lack of negotiations is one of the reasons why.

“It’s true, unfortunately, that women are not as strong at negotiating on their own behalf in particular,” she said. “We are not cultivated to market ourselves and toot our own horn.”

Dart cited a study conducted by Catalyst Canada that reviewed the salaries of MBA graduates. It was found that women, on average, received anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000 less as a starting salary, simply because of a lack of negotiating.

“The worst part of that, if you think of how a salary develops over years, you get a percentage increase,” Dart said. “So if you don’t negotiate the same starting salary, it goes up! Your salary gap gets bigger and bigger over the years.”

Dart offered up some tips for women who don’t feel comfortable with salary negotiations. The first is to change your mindset — pretend you are negotiating on behalf of someone you love or someone who is dependent on you. An example is a child or a senior parent. “We are actually viciously good negotiators if we negotiate on behalf of our kids. We will ask for the world.”

Another is to always ask “what else can you do for me.” Those seven words can open up the conversation and the employer may offer a salary increase, extended vacation days, or maybe an allowance for transportation. The biggest challenge, according to Dart, is who puts out the first number, something that is called setting the ceiling. Dart suggests allowing the employer to do so by asking what the typical range of pay is for the position. If that doesn’t work, make sure to do your research. Find out what people are making in comparable positions. Dart suggestions the website glassdoor.ca, which offers standard salary ranges for various positions in different companies. And finally, always suggest the higher range and have an argument to back up why you are worth it.

For Dart, equality in salary and within the workforce isn’t the only thing she is fighting for. “If I had a magic wand and I could change one thing, I probably would try to create more equality for men and women at the home front.” She is currently reading “Unfinished Business” by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a book that offers up a solution found in Denmark and Sweden, a solution Dart firmly believes Canada should implement — mandatory paid parental leave for both parents in exchange for government subsidy.

When she isn’t working, Dart loves to travel and explore different cultures. Her favourite place to visit, to date, is India.

The Virgin Way: Inquisitive – Curious – Passionate

I decided to take Richard Branson’s The Virgin Way on holiday with me because a friend suggested I might find him a kindred spirit. I’m not sure if this is because I think having fun is just as important as making an income, but I did find that his attitude towards life is something a lot of people would do well to follow.

The Virgin Way: Everything I know about leadership reflects the positive attitude Branson has carried throughout his life. His ability to learn from failure and take risks are the foundations of a successful business leader able to adapt to any situation. Branson also believes in having fun, and some of his April fools stunts had me rolling off my beach chair in fits of giggles.

The Virgin Way and the choice of business name seems to pee all over the entire British class structure — fantastic, fun and edgy. Carefree and curious about life, Branson enjoys making people happy. If there is a secret to be learned from him, it is that true wealth comes from the happiness you create. Making someone smile, laugh, or even helping your staff excel is what  “The Virgin Way” is all about. The book is filled with stories about how offering good service and having fun go hand in hand.

I remember my first boss at a gas station telling me to smile until I felt it or I’d lose my job. He wasn’t exactly a great people person, but he taught me that serving people and smiling has a real impact on how you see the world.  I went on to build a multi-million dollar company putting convenient stores into gas stations, and I know that our success wasn’t just due to the fact that we were first in the industry to combine these two businesses. It was tied to the fact that staff had fun and took pride in providing terrific customer service. As I was reading Branson’s book, I couldn’t help nodding in agreement … when I wasn’t giggling.

Branson demonstrates that true success isn’t about being focused on making dollars, but more about creating happiness — happy staff, great experiences, happy customers. Taking risk, shaking things up, not taking yourself too seriously and above all making other people happy, is the key to true success — and Branson has a lifetime of experience to back it up.

He is a man that seems perpetually young because he hasn’t allowed negativity to affect him. While many people have tried to poke fun at him or scoff at his antics, he hasn’t allowed them to change him. And that is a true testament to his strength of character.

The Virgin Way is a book that every entrepreneur should read. If you want to leave the world better than you found it, Branson’s insights will inspire or rekindle the spark deep inside.