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Mount Royal University to play key role in helping women entrepreneurs find success

Lindsay Jones

Lindsay Jones credits her time at Mount Royal with instilling her with the knowledge and confidence necessary to start her own business.

Mount Royal University has been chosen to play a key role in the newly announced Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH).

The WEKH, which is part of the federal government’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, will advance research, gather important data and disseminate information related to the advancement of women’s entrepreneurship in Canada. The WEKH will also deliver a report on the progress of women entrepreneurs in Canada.

On Dec. 3, Mary Ng, minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, announced the chosen consortium, led by Ryerson University in Toronto, that will receive nearly $9 million over three years to deliver the WEKH. Mount Royal University is one of eight regional hubs and the only university chosen in Alberta.

“Women entrepreneurs will bring different competencies and focus on solving different problems which will enhance the potential for future economic and societal growth,” said Elizabeth Evans, PhD, dean of the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University. “The scope of this project will be much broader from the expected interest in tech entrepreneurs to a full spectrum of business and cultural undertakings, such as artists, social entrepreneurs and the work of Indigenous women.”

The eight regional hubs also include representatives from VentureLabs in Vancouver, the University of Manitoba, the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise in Thunder Bay, Carleton University in Ottawa, Université de Montréal, OCAD University in Toronto and Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Data points to the need for the project. Federal figures show approximately 16 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises are majority women-owned, while only 10 per cent of high-growth firms are owned by women. About eight per cent of women-owned businesses export (goods and services).

“To advance the economic empowerment of women, we are investing in the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub to ensure that women entrepreneurs, the organizations that support them, government bodies and the private sector are equipped with the necessary information to better understand and assist women entrepreneurs in their efforts to start up, scale up and access new markets,” said Ng.

Women-led businesses also face barriers in accessing capital. According to recent data, women entrepreneurs are less likely to seek debt and equity financing and are more likely to be rejected or receive less money.

“We see this locally as well. In fact, we see it in our own student entrepreneurs,” said Ray DePaul, director of MRU’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. While we have about a 30 per cent participation rate from female students (far better than the national average), very few are involved in high growth firms, and few continue after they graduate. The reasons are complex and require a thoughtful, national approach.”

Lindsay Jones, who graduated from MRU in 2011 with a Bachelor of Business Administration, is the owner of Luxura Diamonds in Calgary. She says gender should never be a deciding factor in success, “yet female entrepreneurs face very real challenges.”   

Jones says her education at MRU provided an indispensable foundation of financial literacy, marketing, sales, leadership and growth strategy that enabled her to found Luxura Diamonds.

“However, I — and other female entrepreneurs — still face obstacles. My industry is historically male-dominated. I work regularly with firms and suppliers around the world, and frequently must bridge not only gender gaps, but cultural gaps and traditions as well, which are often influenced by gender biases."

With more women starting their own businesses and entering male-dominated industries, Jones says improved support and increased access to capital is critical.

“Initiatives addressing skill development, mentoring, networking, strategic growth and financing that are specifically designed for female entrepreneurs will strengthen the Canadian economy and have a ripple effect that will extend beyond our borders.”

Quick facts

The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) will help women start and grow their businesses by improving access to financing, talent, networks and expertise through an investment of nearly $2 billion.

The strategy will help the federal government achieve its goal of doubling the number of majority women-owned businesses by 2025.

Fewer than 16 per cent of SMEs in Canada are majority women-owned.

Only 8.4 per cent of majority women-owned SMEs export, compared to 12.8 per cent of majority male-owned small and medium-sized enterprises.

 

Dec. 4, 2018 ― Peter Glenn

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