New day dawning for women entrepreneurs

B.C. has the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs in Canada

Dawn McCooey is the skills development manager with the Women’s Enterprise Centre.

Dawn McCooey is the skills development manager with the Women’s Enterprise Centre.

Businesswomen from across Saanich were recognized Tuesday night at the Beach House Restaurant for the Saanich News Women in Business celebration.

And if recent trends are any indication, the number of local businesswomen will only grow in the years to come.

“B.C. has the highest percentage in Canada of women entrepreneurs. About 37 per cent of all small business in B.C. is owned by women. And the number of woman entrepreneurs is growing right now,” said Dawn McCooey, skills development manager with the Women’s Enterprise Centre.

The not-for-profit centre’s primary role is to provide loans to women entrepreneurs, while also providing skills development, training and mentoring programs.

But while women are more active in starting businesses than their male counterparts, those businesses have a much slower pace of growth. McCooey said there are many reasons for that, some have to do with access to capital while others are centred on mindset.

“Women usually have a dual role, they’re managing their families and their businesses. The idea of growing the business is sometimes frightening in terms of, I can’t possibly work any more hours, I don’t have a wife at home.”

McCooey says something in the neighbourhood of three per cent of venture capital goes to woman-owned businesses, making it hard for women to obtain financing. She also points to industries like high-tech that employ very few women.

“Women-owned businesses traditionally still fall into the service industries, consulting, retail, what might be considered traditionally female types of  businesses.”

McCooey said many fledgeling businesswomen have opted to become “social-preneurs,” starting up companies with a social focus.

One of the main challenges women face is confidence in themselves. McCooey points to a survey that showed men will apply on jobs where they might only meet 70 per cent of the criteria, while women will only apply if they met them all.

“Women move forward usually in more of a methodical and planned way, which is why women-owned businesses succeed at the get-go, because they are often planned differently,” she said, adding that businesses started by women tend to have a better initial success rate than those of men because more thought was often put into the project in the initial stages.

She said one of the ways to encourage more women entrepreneurs starts with highlighting the success women have enjoyed in the business world.

“If you ask the average person on the street to name a successful female entrepreneur, they have a hard time doing that. It’s about role models, it’s about the way we speak to children, and the assumptions and unconscious biases that are out there. It’s that awareness.”

She points to things like the Saanich News Women in Business event as a way to embrace women entrepreneurs and celebrate their success. And McCooey fully expects to see businesswomen continuing to enjoy success in the future.

“We’re in a sharing economy, and I think that speaks to what some would argue are more traditional ways of females doing business. As those opportunities expand and grow, I think you’ll see more and more jumping on board with some of those kinds of opportunities,” she said, adding the growth of online businesses and home office startups creates a perfect fit for young mothers.