Home Month and Year March 2024 Empowering Women in Business: A Closer Look at Alberta’s Evolving Landscape

Empowering Women in Business: A Closer Look at Alberta’s Evolving Landscape

Why it’s important to recognize, support and celebrate female entrepreneurs

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In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, the role of women entrepreneurs and leaders is more critical than ever. Women tend to prioritize social responsibility, community involvement, and diversity in their businesses, contributing to a more equitable and sustainable business ecosystem. Recognizing, supporting and celebrating women in business not only fosters an environment of diversity and inclusion but also drives economic growth and societal change. Additionally, celebrating women in business is not only good for the individual and the company but also beneficial for the broader community. It enhances the company’s attractiveness to job seekers while aiding in employee retention.

In Alberta, the statistics reinforce the significance of women-led businesses. According to the Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), 38 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises in Alberta are owned by women. This not only signifies the increasing presence of women in the business sector but also highlights their pivotal role in the province’s economic development.

Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC) is one such organization that supports, recognizes and celebrates women in business. Alberta Women Entrepreneurs is (AWE) a local organization in the WEOC network.

“WEOC supports organizations across Canada that are working directly with women entrepreneurs, like AWE,” shares Alison Kirkland, CEO. “We provide our members with professional development and peer networking opportunities so that they have the resources at hand to support the women entrepreneurs in their region. We also administer the WEOC National Loan Program, which offers loans in any amount up to $50,000. AWE is one of our partners, delivering training, advising and mentorship to women entrepreneurs who are applying for loans. Together we are working to ensure that Alberta women have access to different sources of gender-specific capital.”

She notes that it is often more difficult for women to get business funding.

“Lower credit scores or lack of collateral may impact a woman’s ability to access financing,” says Kirkland. “Many women are in service businesses that don’t have assets to secure a loan. The WEOC loan is more flexible in terms of requirements and may be used for a variety of costs, including website development, marketing materials, inventory and leasehold improvements.”

She continues, “Women do business differently. They have different goals for their businesses and different requirements on their time. They are, for the most part, primary caregivers. Some have smaller networks or resume gaps because of this. Our support recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s important to meet women where they are in their entrepreneurial journeys.”

She adds, “Women are also very generous in giving back to their communities. Having healthy women-owned businesses helps create healthy local economies.”

Kirkland describes why it’s important to not only support but also celebrate female entrepreneurs.

“To show others that it can be done! Women business leaders are role models and contribute to the national economy. We need to show the breadth of possibilities and range of businesses.”

One such woman who is an excellent role model and example is Katie Phillips, managing director, operational excellence at Tricon Solutions.

“Tricon is a community that values diverse minds, backgrounds, and experiences. As a women-owned company, we bring a fresh, relationship-based perspective to the traditional industry,” says Phillips. “Established in 2005, Tricon emerged in an industry marred by two significant voids: the absence of a comprehensive project delivery solution and the lack of a supportive community for project experts to thrive collectively. In those early days, consultants faced short contracts, leaving them isolated and restarting with each project – a lonely, inefficient, and challenging cycle. Our journey began with the ground breaking ‘PMO In-A-Box’ concept, laying the foundation for a vibrant community. The evolution into staff augmentation swiftly became our most engaging expertise.

Phillips’ journey with Tricon has been incredibly rewarding.

“I’ve learned that building meaningful connections, coupled with hard work and self-trust, is the key to success. Joining Tricon at its startup phase opened doors for me, providing an early entry and the chance to collaborate with inspiring women entrepreneurs, igniting my passion for leadership.

“Throughout my time with Tricon, I have actively pursued every opportunity for advancement, consistently proving my worth as a trusted team member. A defining moment arose when I boldly approached the owner of Tricon, expressing my desire to become an owner and contribute significantly to the company’s succession plan. This decision has granted me the immensely rewarding opportunity to fulfill my lifelong dream of owning a business.”

She describes her leadership style, “It is no different than who I am at my core. I embody qualities of quiet, calm and transparency in my communication, coupled with a profound care of the people and the work to which I am committed. As a leader, I consider these traits to be strengths. My reserved nature commands attention when I do speak, offering a comforting presence amid chaos and fostering open conversations. I thrive in one-on-one interactions, gradually sharing personal details as relationships deepen. While I may not bring the loudest personality to the leadership table, I’ve invested effort in understanding myself, recognizing my strengths and perpetually evolving to be authentic in my leadership journey.”

What are her thoughts on women entrepreneurship? She is happy to share the roadblocks and how to overcome them.

“Statistically, women are often overlooked for promotions, paid less, have less access to capital and lack financial confidence in their business. I think women also are hard on themselves, suffer from imposter syndrome and go for or apply for fewer positions of power. It is empowering that we are talking about these things, that there are statistics out there on women entrepreneurs and the roadblocks we face. It’s now up to women entrepreneurs and leaders to break through the roadblocks, find ways to build ourselves up, build each other up and start making a difference for future generations. I believe we can do that every day by supporting women-led businesses, mentoring up-and-coming leaders, joining peer mentoring groups and finding ways to share the business knowledge we have to help the women in our network succeed.”

To aspiring women entrepreneurs, she says, “Always trust yourself. Make bold moves toward your goals and beyond that, create a space for yourself that is supportive. We live in a world where women are at a disadvantage in business but there are so many opportunities for you to change that. Surround yourself with women or allies that promote you, promote your business, who can share their learnings from having gone through hard things, their connections and who are willing to share in the loneliness at the top. Once you have that, you’ll be unstoppable!”

The increasing presence of women in Alberta’s business landscape is a testament to resilience, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs are addressed and dismantled. As we continue to appreciate and celebrate women’s contributions to the business world, it is crucial to create an ecosystem that supports and nurtures their growth. By doing so, we can look forward to a future where gender parity in business is not just an ideal, but a reality. Let us remember that when we support women in business, we are investing in a more inclusive, diverse, and prosperous Alberta.

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