Silvia Pencak is the President of Women Business Enterprises Canada Council (WBE Canada), Canadian nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating relationships between Canadian women-owned businesses and large corporate and government organizations across North America. WBE Canada promotes the economic advancement of Women Business Enterprises (WBEs). As a quality third-party certifying of businesses that are 51% owned, managed and controlled by women, WBE Canada has been connecting them to large supply chains since 2009. To learn more about their initiatives, visit www.WBECanada.ca. You can connect with Silvia directly on Twitter – @SilviaPencak.
When Canadian Press released their analysis of D&I initiatives at top Canada’s corporations in August 2018, many of us were in shock realizing that corporations might be going backward. If you missed their article, their findings were that “despite pressure to improve gender equality in Canadian workplaces – and a myriad of initiatives and corporate pledges to boost female representation – top-earning women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts, while the number holding the powerful management roles of chief executive officer and chief financial officer has shrunk compared to five years ago.” Their analysis confirmed that less than 8% of the top paid management roles were held by women. On top of that, they were paid an average 64 cents for every dollar earned by the average male holding a C-Suite position.
While many HR professionals immediately sounded the alarm in diversity & inclusion space, immediately evaluating their programs and looking for improvements, at WBE Canada we looked at supplier diversity space and the results we were seeing in corporate procurement. With only 1% of top corporations being committed to opening their procurement opportunities to Canadian women-owned businesses and diversity spend in Canada being way under 5%, we know there is still a long road to travel.
Sadly, even though it’s 2019, women still face obstacles and challenges when it comes to landing corporate contracts.
This month I have a challenge for you. I believe that you too can make a difference for women around you. And here are my suggestions on how to become a game changer. Whether you are a woman or a man, in business or workplace, Halifax or Vancouver – I have an action list to help us start making an impact in entrepreneurial space in Canada and beyond. Each day select at least one item from the list below, act on it and at the end of the month report back to me to let me know the impact you have seen. My contact information is at the end of this article. Feel free to tag me in any actions you take based on this article.
- Listen to a woman business owner. Ask a woman to share her story. Pay attention to those stories of survival, overcoming, failures and victories.
- Encourage a woman founder by letting her know what potential, strength, the talent you see in her.
- Promote a great business woman you know. Let your community know how she inspired you and what made her stand out in your eyes. And if you are a leader, make sure that your promotion isn’t just verbal. Consider expanding the existing contract or referring her to another potential client.
- Send a personal note to a female entrepreneur. Encouraging words can go far and high. Whether you send it via snail mail or email, your personal note will be appreciated.
- Mentor a woman. A long time ago someone mentioned to me that every 5th grader seems like a “god” to a 1st grader. You don’t have to be on top of your game to help someone. There already are women around you who can benefit from your help and support – now. Become a mentor who can help her to break through the barriers and move to the next level.
- Buy a book written by a female entrepreneur. Many business women shared their advice and stories in detail through their books. Consider buying a book and even better, buy multiple books and gift them to friends, family or co-workers.
- Hire a woman speaker for your next event. Women can be passionate and inspiring speakers. Consider securing a woman speaker for your next event.
- Sponsor event supporting women-owned businesses. Here’s my little plug. WBE Canada actively seeks to support the success of women-owned businesses. We host over 20 events across Canada each year, both virtually and in person. Consider supporting Canadian women-owned businesses through sponsorship opportunities.
- Be an advocate. Don’t let others talk about women in negative terms as long as you are in the room. Stop the bias on the spot.
- Recommend a woman for a project or promotion. One of the reasons why women don’t get promotions or contracts is that they promote themselves differently. They wait for their results to speak loud enough that someone will notice. Unfortunately, many times this is misunderstood as lack of aspiration. Become a champion for a woman around you.
- Host a workshop for aspiring female entrepreneurs. If you are a seasoned business owner, consider hosting a workshop for future female business owners to help them overcome costly mistakes and help them get off the ground quickly.
- Help a woman founder reach her goals. Some women are driven and seeking great accomplishments. Instead of telling a woman how “insane” or “unreasonable” she sounds, helps her navigate toward her goal, providing her with tools, resources, and introductions along the way.
- Invest in a small business owned by a woman. Many times, a small loan can go a long way with women-owned businesses.
- Sponsor initiative benefiting women-owned businesses. At WBE Canada we see many gaps in women entrepreneurship ecosystem. Our results are always limited by our budget, not our imagination. Your support can go a long way and impact many businesses across the country.
- Buy from a women-owned business. Even though encouragement is great, buying from women creates opportunities for their businesses to scale up and grow.
This month and every day after, let’s celebrate, support and promote Canadian women who make a difference in spite of the challenges they face, making a pathway for many others to follow.