Entrepreneurship as an Alternate Gateway to Professional Success for Canadian Women

CPC Business Development

By Margaret Page

The facts are undeniable; more and more Canadian women are leaving corporate careers, escaping a field of institutionalized limitations and reaching for the freedom and flexibility of self employment.

Canada is a global leader when it comes to women entrepreneurship. In fact, with more than 821,000 women entrepreneurs in Canada, this is one of the fastest growing segments of the Canadian economy – that is, 10 percent of all Canadian women are self employed. According to Stats Canada, women are leaving the workforce at twice the rate of men to start their own business – and according to the Royal Bank of Canada they are starting businesses at almost 7 times the rate of men.1

Why is entrepreneurship becoming increasingly attractive to Canadian women? Studies point to a growing frustration with the inherent limitations of the corporate career path for women.

According to a Catalyst study, 29 percent of women business owners with prior private-sector experience cited glass-ceiling issues as the primary reason for leaving their corporate positions. Of those women, 44 percent felt their contributions were not recognized or valued.2 No longer content to toil in corporate careers, where pay is 70 percent of men’s and opportunities to assume leadership roles are scarce and hard won, many women are seeking alternatives to the stunted corporate career path.
Their feelings of unequal treatment are validated by statistical evidence of a longstanding deficit of women in corporate leadership roles.

  • Catalyst surveyed all of the Financial Post 500 companies in Canada (April 2007) and found that only 15 percent of upper management positions were held by women. Yet women comprised 49.6 percent of the labour force as of 2006.3
  • A study conducted by executive search firm Rosenzweig & Co. found that of the 535 highest paid and most senior positions in Canada, only 5.8 percent were held by women in 2007, down from 6.9 percent in 2006. Furthermore, only 26 percent of those companies have at least one woman in a C-level position (i.e. CEO, CMO, COO, CIO, CFO, etc.), down from 30 percent the year before.4

These discouraging statistics certainly reflect an area of serious concern for the Canadian career woman, but these factors only tell part of the story.

In addition to taking control of their career path, many women are drawn to entrepreneurship by the dream of seamlessly running their careers, families, and homes. Flexibility, more choice in time management, and relief from the tension of straddling many realms of responsibility are compelling measures of success for women.

According to a study by researchers Fenwick and Hutton (2000) of 95 Canadian women who left corporate employment for self-employment; women measure their success by a number of factors beyond revenue: “Success reflects children, daily satisfaction and fulfillment, quality of relationships comprising work networks, ability to choose daily activities, contributions to communities, reputations, and quality of life,” it says. This suggests that women use a holistic scale to measure their success and satisfaction with work.

Women’s natural tendencies to be nurturers and caregivers have often been limited by traditional career commitments, but the path of entrepreneurship offers the chance to capitalize on these innate talents without compromising professional ambitions. Whether that means working from home while raising young children or taking business relationships in a friendlier direction, entrepreneurial women are discovering new heights of fulfillment on their career paths.

One of the pivotal factors in entrepreneurial women’s success is their ability to leverage their feminine qualities in the realm of networking. Women approach networking in a distinctly different style than men. While men tend toward strategic conversations, women generally aim to develop strong interpersonal bonds. Business topics certainly get addressed, but their style tends to address the whole person rather than the strategic objective alone.

Veering away from the golf course and cocktail hour, women are also leading the way into virtual networking. Online networking groups have become extremely popular for career women. WorldWIT, an online and offline network for women in business and technology, is one such virtual hub, connecting over 40,000 women.5

As Canadian businesswomen continue to raise their profile in the realm of entrepreneurship, corporations will continue to see a drain of knowledge and talent from their ranks. In time, perhaps this trend will force them to reconcile the gender disparity in pay, recognition, and leadership opportunities offered to Canadian women.
Margaret Page is a professional Business Coach and Life Coach who guides individuals along the path to success, providing the encouragement and support they need to live a life less ordinary. To find out if coaching is right for you, schedule a complimentary call by sending an e-mail to margaret@beyondthepage.ca or call (604) 885-0208.


1- roaringwomen.com/media_room
2- conference-board.org/articles/atb_article.cfm?id=179
3- catalystwomen.org/files/quicktakes/Quick%20Takes%20-%20Women%20in%20Management%20in%20Canada.pdf
4- theglobeandmail.com/servlet/Page/document/v5/content/subscribe?user_URL=http://www.theglobeandmail.com%2Fservlet%2Fstory%2FLAC.20080116.CAWOMEN16%2FTPStory%2FBusiness&ord=3890716&brand=theglobeandmail&force_login=true
5- cdnbizwomen.com/articles/rose13.html

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