Categories
Activism & Action

Op Ed: Canadian Women Entrepreneurs Ghettoized-And It’s Time to Change This

Photo: Stocksy

 

I am just going to say it: Canada has a massive blind spot when it comes to the 1.5 million women entrepreneurs operating in this country. And it won’t change until women entrepreneurs wake up, organize, and demand to be taken seriously.

Time after time, policy-makers, startup gurus, and institutions seem to think that women who work for others (i.e., corporations) and women who found companies are one in the same.

News flash: they are not. While these two groups of women are sisters, women entrepreneurs have very different priorities.

The failure to recognize this difference and develop productive initiatives to address the needs of women entrepreneurs has long been highlighted in several task force reports over the past decade. The new McKinsey Global Institute report called The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada packs a powerful punch as it reveals the impact of the failure to act: $150 billion in overall lost economic potential in Canada alone. An estimated 40% of this lost potential is attributed to the state of women’s entrepreneurship in this country.

The report also says that at the present rate we’re going, it will take another 180 years for Canada to achieve gender parity in entrepreneurship. And, while there has been some progress for women in the workplace in terms of narrowing the wage gap, career advancement opportunities, and representation on private boards, the report concludes that extreme inequality still exists in just four out of 15 indicators: political representation, STEM education and occupations, and entrepreneurship.

Since 2008, conditions for women entrepreneurs have actually gotten worse, despite incredible spending on entrepreneurship and innovation support in the form of incubators, accelerators, and other programs galore across the country, at both provincial and federal levels. Why?

On the upside, Canada’s new “feminist” government seems to have the will to change this, though many are beginning to question its commitment. One only has to look at the composition of the much-lauded bi-national Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders launched by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and American presidential advisor and first daughter Ivanka Trump. The appointees (listed below) are all smart, accomplished, mostly white ladies. But how many are representative of mainstream owner/operator entrepreneurs, women who have funded and built new businesses from scratch?

Spoiler alert: The only one to have raised money for her own new venture is Ivanka Trump. Enough said.

 

Mainstream media coverage of women’s advancement tends to focus on the dearth of women on corporate boards, or the lack of career advancement in corporations and initiatives to address them such as the 30% Club or corporate internal male-female sponsorship programs.

The needs of our corporate sisters are real and important, but they dominate the agenda.

So how do we bring similar levels of attention to the issues that matter to women entrepreneurs?

I say it’s time women and other gender-minority entrepreneurs organize and use their own voices to advocate for systems change. We are 1.5 million strong, represent 16% (or 36% jointly owned) of all enterprises in Canada, and over $2 billion in GDP.

If not us, then who?

______________________________________________________________________

Additional reading:

Op-Ed CANADIAN “FEMINIST” POLICY AGENDA FAILING 1.5M CANADIAN WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS by Dr. Barbara Orser and Vicki Saunders

Full McKinsey Report

Women Entrepreneur Ontario Recommendations

Categories
Activism & Action

Op Ed: Canadian Women Entrepreneurs Ghettoized-And It's Time to Change This

Photo: Stocksy

 
I am just going to say it: Canada has a massive blind spot when it comes to the 1.5 million women entrepreneurs operating in this country. And it won’t change until women entrepreneurs wake up, organize, and demand to be taken seriously.
Time after time, policy-makers, startup gurus, and institutions seem to think that women who work for others (i.e., corporations) and women who found companies are one in the same.
News flash: they are not. While these two groups of women are sisters, women entrepreneurs have very different priorities.
The failure to recognize this difference and develop productive initiatives to address the needs of women entrepreneurs has long been highlighted in several task force reports over the past decade. The new McKinsey Global Institute report called The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada packs a powerful punch as it reveals the impact of the failure to act: $150 billion in overall lost economic potential in Canada alone. An estimated 40% of this lost potential is attributed to the state of women’s entrepreneurship in this country.
The report also says that at the present rate we’re going, it will take another 180 years for Canada to achieve gender parity in entrepreneurship. And, while there has been some progress for women in the workplace in terms of narrowing the wage gap, career advancement opportunities, and representation on private boards, the report concludes that extreme inequality still exists in just four out of 15 indicators: political representation, STEM education and occupations, and entrepreneurship.
Since 2008, conditions for women entrepreneurs have actually gotten worse, despite incredible spending on entrepreneurship and innovation support in the form of incubators, accelerators, and other programs galore across the country, at both provincial and federal levels. Why?
On the upside, Canada’s new “feminist” government seems to have the will to change this, though many are beginning to question its commitment. One only has to look at the composition of the much-lauded bi-national Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders launched by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and American presidential advisor and first daughter Ivanka Trump. The appointees (listed below) are all smart, accomplished, mostly white ladies. But how many are representative of mainstream owner/operator entrepreneurs, women who have funded and built new businesses from scratch?
Spoiler alert: The only one to have raised money for her own new venture is Ivanka Trump. Enough said.

 
Mainstream media coverage of women’s advancement tends to focus on the dearth of women on corporate boards, or the lack of career advancement in corporations and initiatives to address them such as the 30% Club or corporate internal male-female sponsorship programs.
The needs of our corporate sisters are real and important, but they dominate the agenda.
So how do we bring similar levels of attention to the issues that matter to women entrepreneurs?
I say it’s time women and other gender-minority entrepreneurs organize and use their own voices to advocate for systems change. We are 1.5 million strong, represent 16% (or 36% jointly owned) of all enterprises in Canada, and over $2 billion in GDP.
If not us, then who?
______________________________________________________________________
Additional reading:
Op-Ed CANADIAN “FEMINIST” POLICY AGENDA FAILING 1.5M CANADIAN WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS by Dr. Barbara Orser and Vicki Saunders
Full McKinsey Report
Women Entrepreneur Ontario Recommendations

Categories
Our Voices

Op-Ed: Canadian "Feminist" Policy Agenda Failing 1.5M Canadian Women Entrepreneurs

Photo Credit: Stocksy


Canada needs a policy framework to support women entrepreneurs.
On June 9, 2017, the Canadian federal government launched Canada’s first Feminist International Assistance Policy. In May, Chancellor Angela Merkel revealed that she is working with Ivanka Trump and the World Bank to establish a fund for women entrepreneurs in developing countries, which the Government of Canada is now a $20M investee. While it may be politically expedient to jump on board with this new investment fund, Canada must first put its domestic policy agenda about supporting women entrepreneurs in order.
Supporting women’s economic potential fits Canada’s emerging identity. A feminist prime minister, a gender-balanced cabinet, and a “Gender Statement” in Budget 2017 have catapulted Canada onto the world stage of inclusive politics. Canada has historically led the world in equality policy and legislation for employees. This is not the case with respect to supporting women entrepreneurs, however. Despite numerous studies and industry reports calling for policy reform, there remain no federal policies to guide domestic decisions or inform spending.
Unlike the United States, Canada has no legislated mechanism to support an advisory council focused on issues of importance to women business owners. There remains no oversight or accountability to report on the engagement of women in federally funded small business, innovation, or technology accelerators. Within government, conflicting agency mandates and perspectives about the importance of women entrepreneurs have stifled investment. Gender-based audits mandated by legislation are ignored. New policies are replicating historical investment patterns in industries in which women entrepreneurs are under-represented. For example, new federal investment in artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, including efforts to attract women into STEM, miss the target for the vast majority of Canadian women. A Gender Statement in the federal budget is simply that, a statement.
The World Bank and OECD have cited the economic costs of the gender gap in entrepreneurship policy. In June 2017, McKinsey Global Institute & Company Canada released “The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada,” citing women’s entrepreneurship as a leading gender gap. The report calls for the Canadian government to “reenergize progress toward gender parity,” noting that at the current rate of progress, it will take approximately 180 years to reach gender equity. Recommendations include a national association that focuses on skill-building, mentoring, and networking opportunities for female entrepreneurs and the need for incubators and accelerators to adopt a targeted approach to attract female entrepreneur applicants. These same recommendations have been cited by numerous task forces and industry organizations.
There has never been a better time to invest resources to bolster the contributions of women, at home and abroad. The recently announced “Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders” can learn from existing regional pockets of excellence, such as the Women’s Enterprise Initiative in Western Canada. However, no amount of consultation, research, or feminist flag-waving will address the cultural bias that is deeply ingrained within Canada’s male-centric entrepreneurship ecosystem. Science Minister Kirsty Duncan has threatened universities with less funding for research chairs if they don’t meet equity targets. It is time for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, Small Business and Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger, and Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef to assemble a policy framework to support women entrepreneurs. Federally funded small business, innovation, and technology accelerators must also be required to demonstrate equity or face similar funding cuts. An economic growth agenda is not complete when it leaves women’s innovative and economic contributions on the sidelines.
We call upon Canadian women entrepreneurs and those who support women entrepreneurs with their capital, networks, and expertise to make your voices heard to our politicians and policymakers. A Canadian women’s enterprise policy framework is long overdue.


Barbara Orser is a Full Professor at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa and co-author of Feminine Capital: Unlocking the Power of Women Entrepreneurs (Stanford University Press, 2015).
Vicki Saunders is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of SheEO, a global initiative to radically transform how we finance, support, and celebrate female entrepreneurs.
Publisher’s note: Canadian females fully or partially own 391,455 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).  In addition, in 2017 there are over one million (1,013,000) female self-employed workers. Source: (2016) Labour Force Survey and (2014) Survey of Financing and Growth of SMEs.  There is currently no advocacy voice dedicated to the advancement of women entrepreneurs politically, socially and economically in Canada. 


Additional Reading
Canada pledges $20M for women’s entrepreneurship program, CBC, July 8, 2017
McKinskey “Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada” report, June, 2017
The Cure for the Start-Up Incubator and Accelerator Gender Gap: Accountability
Confronting Gender Inequity and Inclusion in the Innovation Space
 

Categories
Our Voices

Op-Ed: Canadian “Feminist” Policy Agenda Failing 1.5M Canadian Women Entrepreneurs

Photo Credit: Stocksy

Canada needs a policy framework to support women entrepreneurs.

On June 9, 2017, the Canadian federal government launched Canada’s first Feminist International Assistance Policy. In May, Chancellor Angela Merkel revealed that she is working with Ivanka Trump and the World Bank to establish a fund for women entrepreneurs in developing countries, which the Government of Canada is now a $20M investee. While it may be politically expedient to jump on board with this new investment fund, Canada must first put its domestic policy agenda about supporting women entrepreneurs in order.

Supporting women’s economic potential fits Canada’s emerging identity. A feminist prime minister, a gender-balanced cabinet, and a “Gender Statement” in Budget 2017 have catapulted Canada onto the world stage of inclusive politics. Canada has historically led the world in equality policy and legislation for employees. This is not the case with respect to supporting women entrepreneurs, however. Despite numerous studies and industry reports calling for policy reform, there remain no federal policies to guide domestic decisions or inform spending.

Unlike the United States, Canada has no legislated mechanism to support an advisory council focused on issues of importance to women business owners. There remains no oversight or accountability to report on the engagement of women in federally funded small business, innovation, or technology accelerators. Within government, conflicting agency mandates and perspectives about the importance of women entrepreneurs have stifled investment. Gender-based audits mandated by legislation are ignored. New policies are replicating historical investment patterns in industries in which women entrepreneurs are under-represented. For example, new federal investment in artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, including efforts to attract women into STEM, miss the target for the vast majority of Canadian women. A Gender Statement in the federal budget is simply that, a statement.

The World Bank and OECD have cited the economic costs of the gender gap in entrepreneurship policy. In June 2017, McKinsey Global Institute & Company Canada released “The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada,” citing women’s entrepreneurship as a leading gender gap. The report calls for the Canadian government to “reenergize progress toward gender parity,” noting that at the current rate of progress, it will take approximately 180 years to reach gender equity. Recommendations include a national association that focuses on skill-building, mentoring, and networking opportunities for female entrepreneurs and the need for incubators and accelerators to adopt a targeted approach to attract female entrepreneur applicants. These same recommendations have been cited by numerous task forces and industry organizations.

There has never been a better time to invest resources to bolster the contributions of women, at home and abroad. The recently announced “Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders” can learn from existing regional pockets of excellence, such as the Women’s Enterprise Initiative in Western Canada. However, no amount of consultation, research, or feminist flag-waving will address the cultural bias that is deeply ingrained within Canada’s male-centric entrepreneurship ecosystem. Science Minister Kirsty Duncan has threatened universities with less funding for research chairs if they don’t meet equity targets. It is time for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, Small Business and Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger, and Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef to assemble a policy framework to support women entrepreneurs. Federally funded small business, innovation, and technology accelerators must also be required to demonstrate equity or face similar funding cuts. An economic growth agenda is not complete when it leaves women’s innovative and economic contributions on the sidelines.

We call upon Canadian women entrepreneurs and those who support women entrepreneurs with their capital, networks, and expertise to make your voices heard to our politicians and policymakers. A Canadian women’s enterprise policy framework is long overdue.


Barbara Orser is a Full Professor at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa and co-author of Feminine Capital: Unlocking the Power of Women Entrepreneurs (Stanford University Press, 2015).

Vicki Saunders is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of SheEO, a global initiative to radically transform how we finance, support, and celebrate female entrepreneurs.

Publisher’s note: Canadian females fully or partially own 391,455 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).  In addition, in 2017 there are over one million (1,013,000) female self-employed workers. Source: (2016) Labour Force Survey and (2014) Survey of Financing and Growth of SMEs.  There is currently no advocacy voice dedicated to the advancement of women entrepreneurs politically, socially and economically in Canada. 


Additional Reading

Canada pledges $20M for women’s entrepreneurship program, CBC, July 8, 2017

McKinskey “Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada” report, June, 2017

The Cure for the Start-Up Incubator and Accelerator Gender Gap: Accountability

Confronting Gender Inequity and Inclusion in the Innovation Space