Female business owners and working women in high-income countries in general, have made remarkable progress compared to their counterparts a generation ago. In the United States women in their 30’s make 4 times more than women a generation apart. Yet for me, while women in Canada have come to represent an impressive 47% of Canadian business owners – only 16% were majority female ownership of the Canada’s 1.6 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), I expect us to succeed and win at our game based on wanting to be in the game – as an equal.
Although women are making great strides, evidence suggests there is greater economic and social development to be had for women as well as all Canadians. And the continuing entrepreneurial growth will be dependent on the ability of institutions, that businesses rely on, to adapt to serving a more diverse group of entrepreneurs, affording them an equal chance of successful business growth; and greater access to mentorship and resources for all emerging entrepreneurs.
Helping to Finance Growth Opportunities for Female-Led Businesses
A British Columbia Community Foundation recently released their findings from a project undertaken called “Women Entrepreneurs: Financing Opportunities for Growth.” The project looks at challenges facing female entrepreneurs and suggests that Canadian financial institutions look for better ways to provide financing opportunities that meet the unique needs of women. The findings released August of this year also advocate a similar approach to financing other social groups that find it difficult to grow their businesses under a financing market borne out of serving the needs of a previous, less diverse generation of business owners.
The Two Biggest Financial Challenges Facing Female Business Owners in Canada
The 8 page report offered by the WE Financing Opportunity for Growth Project highlighted two main financial challenges facing Canadian female business owners:
1. Canadian Women’s Access to Financial Capital
Women as a group begin their firms with lower levels of financial capital than men. Canadian born women and immigrants alike seek less financing to grow their business. And what is more, women that do go to a financial institution looking for a business loan are more likely to have little or no credit history, and little or no business assets. Meanwhile, interestingly, women are more likely than men to pay the sum back if they do choose to borrow.
2. Canadian Women’s Levels of Entrepreneurial Capital
Women have high levels of human capital regarding education attainment but have lower levels of entrepreneurial capital – the skills, knowledge, networks and experience relevant to launching and growing a business – than male-owned businesses. Many women entrepreneurs do not know or take full advantage of programming opportunities available in their communities to build entrepreneurial capital. Local chambers of commerce, industry associations and young professionals’ networks often develop programming specifically to build these skills and experiences.
Women Can Overcome Financial Obstacles to Growing their Business
As women, we need to be responsive to the unique work-life challenges that women – especially women who are, or who plan to become mothers – face. Yes, we may need flexible work schedules or we may need to manage the speed of our careers depending on our responsibilities outside of work but that does not mean that we should not set smart business growth goals for ourselves. We have the authority and freedom to gain knowledge of what our financing options are and that means, setting a plan. We have the ability to take our planning strengths from our households, top notch organization skills and multi-tasking to learn the operating numbers to run and lead a business.
New Business Owners Need to Learn to Lean on Others, and to Collaborate
Since everyone’s confidence levels are built on experience, our ability as women to make connections, build networks and learn how to collaborate are critical components to our success. This may suggest taking risks and using others’ strengths to help us – but that is the best part, we no longer have to go at it alone. To get started with your business model or to extend it, understand the numbers and respect that cash is king/queen, so that each business decision becomes somewhat objective to the bottom-line results. Planning cash flow and strategically working through how to access new markets will build business experience.
Women: Embrace the Opportunity to Develop Yourself as a Business Owner and as a Person
And yet, isn’t this the real reason for becoming an entrepreneur in the first place? To become the best we can become – in our set of experiences based on our choices, business growth ambitions and goals. We can define what makes our “wins”. And perhaps equally important, we can lead the way toward a more diverse and inclusive women-owned small business community. Plus it is no surprise, that we have an emphasis on community contributions, being a good employer and generating positive community impacts. Make your life – own it and don’t expect special privileges to become prosperous. Our definitions are in our control as women entrepreneurs….let’s set them for ourselves with no regrets.