Times Are Changing for Woman Entrepreneurs
Although the definition of an entrepreneur, “One who undertakes to conduct an enterprise assuming full control and risk.” is not gender specific, it is no wonder that most entrepreneurs are men. Because women tend to undertake the greater share of raising children and keeping the house together, many women simply do not have the time to start a business!
As a woman entrepreneur, and the current President of the Women Entrepreneurs of Canada, (WEC), I have had the opportunity to take a close look at the issues that female business owners face. At a recent international women’s conference in Glasgow, the Bank of Scotland presented some of its research. According to the bank, women business owners tend to:
under-capitalize their businesses at startup;
have a disinclination to use debt finance and to be more risk averse than their male counterparts;
use a higher proportion of their personal savings within their business, both at startup and development;
be less confident than men about their knowledge and understanding of financial products and services.
all of which can impact on financing and growing their businesses.
This may be exacerbated by the banks’ historical unwillingness to treat their female business customers in the same manner as male customers. Women owned businesses tend to be more service oriented and therefore have less equity than male owned businesses—another reason banks can be skeptical.
Financing is crucial to all commerce, and perhaps managing money is most critical among small businesses, whether at the start or when expanding. The struggle to maintain adequate cashflow is constant among entrepreneurs. Is it any surprise then, that financial worry is the most prevalent cause of stress and insomnia!
With women generating forty percent of new start-ups, and one-third of self-employed proprietorships in Canada owned or led by women, women entrepreneurs have increased by more than two hundred per cent in the last twenty years. As a result, women are seeking more opportunities to grow their network and enhance their support systems.
The Women Entrepreneurs of Canada was founded in Toronto in 1992, as a resource, support and opportunity network for women in business. WEC promotes and fosters the success of women entrepreneurs in Canada and helps them define and achieve success on their own terms. WEC promotes the interests of women entrepreneurs in the larger business community; facilitates the transfer of relevant knowledge that is appropriate to WEC members; and partners with organizations both in Canada and abroad, such as the National Association of Women Business Owners in the USA, and international groups like Femmes Chefs d’Enterprises Mondiales and the Italian Associazione Imprenditrici e Donne Dirigenti D’Azienda, (see www.aidda.org), to bring best practices, opportunities and resources to its members here.
It is often said that in unity there is strength, and I would say that goes double for the members of WEC. This is an organization where women can meet and mix with other women who face similar issues in starting, running, and growing their businesses. WEC is a resource that provides a unified voice to government and the public, pushing the issues of women entrepreneurs to the forefront. Recently, I had a chance to represent WEC before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in Ottawa and I was able to convey our position on financing, statistical research, daycare, and maternity leave.
WEC recommends increased women’s business research to create more opportunities for women while bringing what is known about women’s businesses up-to-date.
And regarding maternity leave—as women employers do not have the same benefits as their employees; what might be done to level the playing field and extend that benefit to all as, for example, it is in Finland?
WEC is working hard to communicate a confident and refreshingly optimistic message about the future prospects for women and it is gratifying that the message is being heard. I urge any woman in business to find out more about WEC and the benefits of becoming a member by visiting the website at: www.wec.ca.