Mentors Matter: Women Helping Women in Small Business

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

There are a lot of signs of progress for women in the workplace in Canada. Women who are entrepreneurs have a very large impact on the small business landscape around the country. Consider that:

  • In 2015, for the first time ever, more than 1 million Canadian women reported as self-employed.
  • A larger number of female-owned businesses plan to expand compared to male-owned businesses.
  • Female-owned businesses with growth plans are more active in hiring than male-owned businesses.
  • According to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, nearly 50% of all small and medium-sized enterprises are entirely or partially owned by women.
  • The average female small business owner is younger, has less management experience, and makes less money than her male counterpart.

This is why mentoring programs can be particularly effective for female entrepreneurs. When a younger or less experienced woman is able to connect, communicate, and share with another woman who has already been in her situation, it creates an opportunity for more rapid growth.

Finding a Female Mentor

There are plenty of mentor programs or female-focused organizations in Canada that are designed for aspiring entrepreneurs. Some examples include:

  • Status of Women Canada
  • Women Entrepreneurship Fund through StartUp Canada
  • Royal Bank of Canada’s Women Entrepreneurship Programs (including one-on-one strategic advising for female entrepreneurs)
  • Women Enterprise Centres in provinces like Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia

However, do not forget to look around your immediate work environment(s). There may be industry professionals who you look up to or may possess solutions you can learn from. From there, branch out by finding successful women and introducing yourself, or perhaps conduct an internet search to find guidance programs that you feel comfortable with.

Finally, if you consider yourself more of a freelancer or independent contractor, do not fall into the trap of avoiding coaching and mentoring just because you’d rather not carry the small business owner label yet. Anyone who wants to become more competent and more confident about their vocation can benefit from the training, guidance, and sounding board benefits that a strong female mentor can provide.

Why You Should Seek a Female Mentor

Carving out your own space in the business world can be challenging for women, in part, because many women don’t want to be perceived as simply networking their way ahead. As a result, women sometimes feel reluctant asking for the help they want.

This probably helps explain why women often feel more comfortable asking questions to female mentors. A female mentor is more likely to have encountered and overcome specific challenges in the workplace, such as discrimination based on gender or physical appearance.

The reality is that you never have to re-invent the wheel, and there is a lot to be said for making it easier on your business (and yourself) by identifying and building relationships with a trusted mentor.

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