I have the pleasure of singing in a choral group, where one of the choir directors – the fabulously talented musical pro Katherine Wheatley – tells a story about growing up and wanting to play at the jam session that would happen on the weekend in her neighbourhood.
The jam was all guys. She’d head down to the garage or basement or wherever they were and sit with the other on-lookers, her big white guitar case almost as big as she was. She got some smiles, but they never asked her to join and she hadn’t quite got up the courage to force her way in.
Today Katherine is a professional musician (and the jammers are not). She found another way. And not only that, she is creating another way. Katherine’s off-stage activities include the Women’s Music Weekend Sept. 13-15 (come – you’ll be so glad you did!) for folks who might similarly need a safe and welcoming space to discover their musical selves.
Women in business are no strangers such daunting experiences – currently, only 16% of Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are majority-owned by women. However, it’s no longer the exceptional star or someone with a lucky break blazing the trail: We are up on the stage playing our music in ever-increasing numbers.
Canada has emerged as a leader in women’s entrepreneurship among innovation-based economies, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Canada 2015/16 Report on Women’s Entrepreneurship. In 2016, we had the highest percentage of women participating in early-stage business activity (13.3%) and the fifth-highest percentage of female ownership of established businesses (6.6%).
We’ve found our alternative jams, too. Women tend to cluster in service sectors (82.6% of early-stage, women-led businesses are in consumer service and business service sectors, according to the GEM report cited above).
So what’s it like being a woman in business today? Well, there is still the matter of that original jam. It can feel unwelcoming at times. There are still places we rarely play, such as governance roles, technology leadership and raising investment. These places hold a lot of the power to scale our ideas.
The good news is we are seeing change all around. And perhaps there has never been a better time to pursue our entrepreneurial talents, with the awareness and support that now exists.
That support includes Rhyze Ventures, a new Innovation Guelph program announced Aug. 15 for women entrepreneurs, including local start-ups, social enterprises, and innovation-driven, scalable companies.
Rhyze Ventures is funded by the Government of Canada through the first-ever Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, which seeks to double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025.
Pollinate is thrilled to be the technology partner for Rhyze Ventures, which also involves program delivery partners Business Centre Guelph-Wellington, GreenHouse of St. Paul’s College at the University of Waterloo, and the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre.
We look forward to seeing the impact Rhyze Ventures will make as it welcomes women entrepreneurs to the jam for Canada’s economic prosperity.
P.S. Read about how Pollinate is helping cultivate the next generation of women leaders in science, nature and conservation through Nature Canada’s Women for Nature Mentorship Program.