Being a woman, I feel a bit biased when I talk about the advantages of being a woman in business. Of course, I’m going to think it’s a good thing, right? It’s a brilliant thing. Women make the world go round. As businesswomen, we rock. As you can see, I’m a big cheerleader for women, but it’s more than that when it comes to the business community. Since the 1950s, women have been entering the workforce in greater numbers every year. And businesswomen have changed business for the better. Why? Because our presence introduced diversity.
Discussing the advantage we have as businesswomen makes me think of the many times people – both men and women – have questioned the need for a business network devoted to women. The question doesn’t bother me. There’s a lot of potential for misunderstanding why the WBN exists in this world where we hear talk about equality almost daily.
How the WBN started to support businesswomen
Take a trip with me back 36 years to 1981 (or somewhere around that time).
One of our longstanding members once told a story about the early days of the WBN when there were less than 20 women in the room. They talked about their businesses, the challenges they had and they supported each other. They built relationships – both business and personal – and the support they gave included advice, tips, promotion and even business. Because that’s what a network does: We look to each other first to meet our needs.
The WBN was founded and has grown for over three decades in a grassroots movement that’s all about supporting women, recognizing their accomplishments and helping them find their version of success. There were members at that time that were asked if they had permission from husbands to do certain things. Or they need their husbands to co-sign on bank loans.
We still have a long way to go
Thirty-six years isn’t a long time. And the stats show progress, but there’s still room for improvement. Let me paint a picture:
- 50.4% of Canada’s population is women.
- There are still strict gender lines drawn in education paths. Think STEM.
- The higher level the degree, the fewer women you’ll find.
- The only trade women dominate is food and service. The rest have under 5% of women enrolled.
- Then there’s the wage gap.
- As business owners, women have majority ownership of 15.7% of SMEs and equal partnership of 19.7%.
- On boards of the Financial Post 500 companies, women account for just 14.5%. Take out Crown Corps and it’s only 10%.
We make up roughly half the population, but when you click through to see the statistics, we’re not equal in our contribution.
I watch the news when business awards and other types of recognition and accolades are given. In my completely unscientific observations, businesswomen fall short in being recognized for our achievements as well.
All of this is why the WBN exists.
Want the best? Include the rest.
There’s a great story in this article that illustrates how important it is to keep working to elevate businesswomen:
Thomas Falk, chief executive of Kimberly Clark said: “You and I are going to pick an all-star team from this room in front of us. Now, I only get to pick from these 50 people on the left side, and you get to pick from the whole room. Who will have a better team?”
“If you’re only picking your team from a small subset of the group, you can’t possibly believe that you have the best team.”
Right now, the world isn’t picking the team from both sides of the room. In some cases, there are women who – for a variety of reasons – are hiding in the back, afraid to be picked, even though they know with every fiber of their being that they’re the best for the job.
Those women in that room are why the WBN exists. Because some women don’t see how being a woman is an advantage.
Our advantage is that we’re different
As nurturers, women generally have an innate ability to build meaningful relationships, to show compassion even in business, to empathize with others including employees, clients, customers and suppliers. We bring a different perspective to the concerns of business. It doesn’t mean we’re soft. It means we’re different.
If the diversity of perspective and actions we contribute is our advantage, the business community will only benefit when they embrace us – as contributors, as leaders, as owners, as valued employees, as strategic thinkers, and as equals.
It’s BYA season! We announced our 12 finalists for the 2016 Businesswoman of the Year Awards Tuesday, February 28. So, be sure to register to attend the BYA Gala presented by BMO Financial Group on April 21 as we celebrate the leadership and accomplishments of these outstanding women in our community.
While you’re over on the events page, be sure to sign up to attend the next Wine Down where we’re going to give away a ticket to the BYA Gala, sponsored by TAG HR. Finally, be sure to join us for the Breakfast Mix and Mingle at the end of the month for more discussion of how women have an advantage in business.
WBN President, 2016-17
Senior Content Writer & Editor at Halogen Software