Bringing a group of powerful, strong women together is always exciting. The fact that they all owned their business, were successful and leaders in their own right, made the meeting even more dynamic and you could feel the energy in the room.
On Thursday, the National Task Force on Women’s Business Growth held its fourth roundtable – this time in Toronto. Three roundtables had already taken place across Canada, and I suspect the conversations were similar.
While more and more women are starting their businesses, the growth of their ventures is slower to their male counterparts. Why is that? And more to the point, what can we do to change this situation? These were the topics under discussion at the roundtable.
We had sixty-four women in attendance, representing all types of businesses. Following a report on the latest research, a panel presentation from three successful entrepreneurs, the women were divided into groups to look at supplier diversity and procurement; access to capital; adoption of technology and training needs.
As the facilitators from each group reported back, you could see some common threads. First women needed to be more confident in their abilities to succeed and to actively seek out opportunities to grow their businesses, and it was identified that role models and mentors were needed who could show the way.
Another frequent observation was a lack of financial literacy which hindered growth. As a result, accessing capital became a scary prospect and one that women often chose not to pursue.
We actually had three groups of women from the IT sector which was gratifying to see as so often they are striving to get ahead in a male-dominated industry and they came up with all sorts of innovative strategies to keep us connected and supporting one another.
Different mechanisms and delivery options were considered in terms of training so as to fit into the busy schedule of women business owners and it was recognized that women business owners often seemed reluctant to invest in themselves.
And talking of time, we ran out of it. We’d been together for four hours and the meeting ended on the cusp of exploring solutions that could help and support women business owners. But this was just the beginning, and having the women all in one room to start the dialogue gave credibility to the need for change and the desire for it to happen.