Women in the Workforce
Entrepreneurs, Executives and their Advancing Achievements
If recent trends are any indication of the future of business, men at the top better hold on tight. Traditionally, the worlds of entrepreneurs and executives have been mainly male dominated. A look back not too far in time sees women confined to the home to take care of the housework while the men meet in boardrooms and make deals. With men ruling the workplace for so many years, women have struggled to make their mark with their fair share of challenges. And while there is no question that the tough times may be far from over, we are far from the times when women’s contributions to their companies and their households were not being recognized. Women are creating jobs, owning companies and taking over top spots. They are breaking down the barriers when it comes to being the boss and they are making it on their own.
Women now make up almost 50 per cent of the Canadian labour force and hold almost 40 per cent of management roles. As Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada reports, companies owned by women are the fastest-growing segment of the Canadian business sector. The number of female entrepreneurs in Canada had an incredible increase of 208 per cent between 1981 and 2001, compared with an increase of 38 per cent for men.
While only 16 per cent of all small and medium-sized businesses are majority-female-owned, according to the latest data from Industry Canada, Canadian firms run by women, create new jobs at four times the rate of the national average, collectively providing more jobs than the Canadian Top 100 companies combined.
As women continue to climb the ranks, the number of organizations supporting women is growing steadily as well. Just as vital to an entrepreneurs success as their education or upbringing might be is the support and recognition they receive along the way. Awards such as the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards were created to “provide national recognition to Canada’s women entrepreneurs, whose successful businesses and achievements contribute so much to the Canadian and global economies as well as to their communities.” Over 10,000 women have been nominated for the awards – an inspiring amount as this continually increases the number of role models and mentors for all entrepreneurs and provides the push that others might need to realize that their own projects might be worth pursuing.
These awards and those like them are only a partial indication of the successful females that are making the mark on the world these days. There are 821,000 self employed women contributing to $18 billion to the Canadian economy. And these women are not only creating jobs but entire companies at double the rate of the national average. The number of women with incorporated businesses more than doubled during the last decade.
The Women’s Executive Network (WXN) annually recognizes their Top 100, a list dedicated solely to Canada’s Most Powerful Women. As this list grows by one hundred each year with hundreds more being nominated, the WXN is able to inspire and mentor younger generations, recognizing the importance of building the budding female workforce.
The number of female role models has empowered younger women to take the risks and be in control of their future. With so many award winners and respected leaders being rewarded for their successful contributions to the economy, to their company or to their entrepreneurial endeavours, a younger generation of females are being given the push to power that was once absent.
With entrepreneurship becoming easier due to lower start-up costs and opportunities to work from home, women are able to begin their journey at a younger age, with less risk and become established before balancing family responsibilities, which makes it seem attainable. Ambitious entrepreneurs are discovering that they no longer have to choose between a family and a career but instead can have both, and can have both successfully. As the Government of Canada’s Small Business Financing Profiles notes, on average, female business owners are younger and report fewer years of management or ownership experience compared with male business owners. Data shows women catching up to their male counterparts in many areas such as financing options, business size and certain industries that are often thought to be more male oriented.
Women entrepreneurs are an important part of the growing small business industry in Canada. Encouraging entrepreneurial activity among women will consequently have a significant impact on job creation and wealth across the country. This includes access to financing which is essential for growth to most small business owners. Oppenheimer Funds noted in their 2005 Report on Women and Investing that women owned half of the financial assets in Canada and they projected that number would rise to 70 per cent by 2019. With the majority of money making its way into the hands of females, building smart and savvy female leaders is becoming more important as women are influencing the economy more than ever before. Organizations have recognized this as an opportunity to invest in the future.
The number of organizations recognizing and supporting women in entrepreneurial and senior positions is a testament to the increasing number of successful female executives and entrepreneurs making their mark in the corporate world. New firms in support of women and their corporate endeavours are starting up in cities all over North America as investors understand the importance of investing in this powerful population. Women’s achievements cannot be ignored and while the explosion in female entrepreneurs may not be receiving the media attention that it currently deserves, investors and organizations are making a conscious effort to become involved in their endeavours. For women currently looking to start their own company, the resources are more readily available than ever before and the long list of those wanting to help continues to grow. The future is bright for the determined women.
While women have historically been left to just manage their home life, they are now making the decision to have it all; both their personal and professional lives out of the comfort of their own homes or in the corner office of their companies. It is something worthy of awards and deserving of encouragement as we meld the young female minds of the future, examples of which can be found within the following pages. They are our moms and daughters, sisters and wives in life but they are also our bosses, our leaders and our role models in business. Today, being told you’re acting like a woman is quite the compliment.