This is a time to celebrate the rise in women innovators and entrepreneurs as they continue to break down barriers on their way to becoming tenacious leaders. It is through these efforts that women entrepreneurs are able to make significant contributions on a meso and macro level, through reducing social exclusion, creating new employment opportunities, and increasing the gross domestic product.
Despite helping to shape the backbone of the economy, women entrepreneurs nevertheless experience the combined effects of societal, organizational, and individual challenges. Cultural norms and gender stereotypes have long established the misconception that entrepreneurship is a masculine domain.
Women pursuing entrepreneurial activities tend to receive insufficient financial and institutional support, with 61 per cent of women reporting that current funding models do not satisfy their entrepreneurial needs. There is a deeply-rooted bias against women entrepreneurs, as they are thought to be lacking skills and expertise, and are often considered second to men.
According to ELLA, Ontario’s first accelerator created by Innovation York devoted to helping women-led businesses, women entrepreneurs represent only 16 per cent of business owners in Canada. “Closing the gender gap in entrepreneurship equates to a $150-billion opportunity in added economic prosperity for Canada,” says Nicole Troster, the entrepreneurship manager for ELLA.
Adequate and accessible entrepreneurship education is a critical enabler for women stepping into entrepreneurial roles. “It’s really important that women get access to the community, information, and resources they need to scale because inherently, the cards are stacked against women,” continues Troster.
These challenges are intensified for BIPOC women in innovation and entrepreneurship.
Gazal Amin is a passion coach dedicated to helping aspiring entrepreneurs. After leaving her 9 to 5 job to follow her passions, she shares her perspective on what it means to go against all odds.
“There’s more work to be done. While BIPOC women, including myself, continue to show up and be community leaders, we know based on generational experiences that there may be more financial and generational barriers that would make it harder for BIPOC women to leave their 9 to 5 and start their own business.”
Amin continues on to add that BIPOC women and their business success “are shifting our belief system of women’s roles in society.
“BIPOC women are breaking free of the 9 to 5 mindset and we are the CEOs of six- and seven-figure businesses. Businesses, organizations, and governments should continue to invest their time and money in mentorship and grants for women who are ready to start their business and create more impact. When women step into their full power, our economy and society thrive.”
Individual barriers can leave women feeling as if they don’t have what it takes to lead entrepreneurial roles. There is a preconceived notion that entrepreneurship requires a certain personality — one that is described as aggressive with a high-risk disposition, and lacking empathy.
We must rewrite the narrative. “Entrepreneurship doesn’t require a certain personality. It requires desire and a positive attitude. Building your own business will get tough and you will have to step outside your comfort zone often, but with burning desire and a positive attitude, success is inevitable,” says Amin.
One thing is certain: despite multifaceted challenges surrounding entrepreneurship, women continue to rise, demonstrating resilience and ingenuity. We must not only acknowledge their successes, but also be their biggest advocates and supporters.