Female entrepreneurs urged to achieve same success as men
Within just a few decades, female entrepreneurs have become firmly rooted in the Canadian economy. As the number of women running their own business nears one million, a group dedicated to helping them achieve the same level of success as their male counterparts wants them to "Think Big!"
[ 2008-03-12 ]
Members of WEC's board of directors from left to right: Ruth Bastedo, president, Sue Van Der Hout, Marnie Walker, Carissa Reiniger, Marlene Durrell and Liz Nash.
That's the name of a research and education program operated by Women Entrepreneurs of Canada (WEC). "Our goal is to help, in every tangible way, women grow their businesses, to be economically viable; to prod women to catch up with their male counterparts," president Ruth Bastedo says.
In 2000, women majority-owned companies represented 17% of small and medium-sized enterprises, generated $72 billion in revenues and employed 570,000 people. But those firms tend to be younger with smaller based revenue, equity and profitability, and grow less quickly than male-owned companies, WEC reports. Just 37% are considered high-growth compared to 63% for men and 85% employ fewer than five people.
Last November, WEC launched a partnership with the University of Ottawa's Tefler School of Business to better understand what motivates female entrepreneurs. According to research by Dr. Barbara Orser, completed in association with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, they share many of the same challenges as their male counterparts, including government regulations, taxation and finding qualified labour.
But growth is seen as less important, less likely and of lower value among female entrepreneurs, who view the personal demands related to growth as negative and adding stress to their lives. An overwhelming 84% of women and just 37% of men believe their business has reached a size they are comfortable with and don't want to grow.
Women feel they lack the managerial experience, spousal support and peer support networks needed to grow, Bastedo notes. They are also more likely to operate businesses in the service sectors rather than in knowledge and manufacturing industries, which traditionally enjoy higher growth potential and profitability.
"WEC is starting to look at some of the things that might move those numbers and make it easier for (women) to consider and to visualize growing their businesses," Bastedo says.
She understands the challenges female entrepreneurs face. Together with several partners, she established a $10 million multimedia business that employed 50. After selling it in 2001, she moved to RBC Investments as an investment adviser before establishing Continuum Media, another multimedia business.
Along the way, Bastedo helped re-brand WEC as a national forum. What began as a Toronto-based organization has become a national hub for organizations that represent more than 50,000 women in business across Canada.
In addition to producing a national resource guide for female business owners in Canada, WEC sponsored the first all-women trade mission to Washington, D.C. It has also developed corporate partnerships that help support women in business. Staples Business Depot, its signature sponsor, offers free seminars, while Sun Life hosted a speaking series called "Empowering Women" featuring tips on financial planning, health and wellness.
"We've established a newsletter and a new Facebook group as ways to push content out to the community. Women from across Canada are sharing information with each other," Bastedo says. "Our vision is to create a national voice for women entrepreneurs that resonates with the larger business community and government."
Founded in 1992, Women Entrepreneurs of Canada (WEC) is a not-for-profit business organization for businesses run by females. Its mandate is to:
- Provide a forum for growth-oriented female business owners who "Think Big!"
- Support and facilitate the growth of women-owned businesses.
- Create public awareness around business practices and policies that drive growth-oriented businesses.
- Visit www.wec.ca or join the WEC Facebook group to learn more.
Women Entrepreneurs of Canada (WEC) upcoming events include:
- An Economic Outlook on March 25 in Toronto examines how the current economic climate will affect women-owned businesses.
- Think Big: Beyond Borders, WEC's annual conference, will be held May 8 in Toronto and focuses on female entrepreneurs thinking globally about their businesses. Visit www.wec.ca.