Growing as a leader by building your own org chart

One of the biggest honours I have received is being named to the WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100. I attended the gala in Toronto last November where I met distinguished women of all backgrounds from across the country, from my fellow award winners to the 10 Hall of Fame Inductees. The opportunity to surround myself and connect with amazing women was one I couldn’t miss.

Having worked with executives over the years as a leadership coach, I’ve found that one of the best ways to set yourself on the path to leadership success is by surrounding yourself with a diverse group of mentors. I like to refer to this as developing a personal organizational chart.

What is a personal org chart?

Businesses have org charts to define roles and organize employees by skill sets, making sure their bench is full of the right people to work towards a common goal. Think of yourself as the CEO of “Me Inc.” Who are the people and what are the departments that you need to meet your goals? And I don’t mean just at work. Beyond a boss and direct reports, who is part of the informal team that helps you get things done?

Your personal org chart should include:

  • Peers
  • Personal advisors
  • Mentors (lots of different kinds) and mentees
  • Your boss, team, and others across your organization or outside of it

The various “departments” of your org chart should be able to provide you with:

  • Emotional support
  • Personal development
  • Professional development
  • Mentorship or coaching
  • Feedback and thoughtful discussion (a sounding board)

The importance of mentors in your org chart

If you’re looking to grow the mentorship arm of your personal org chart, you’ve come to the right place. Before receiving the Top 100 honour last year, I’ve been involved with WXN in different capacities, mostly from my hometown of Calgary. Now, I am also proud to share that my company, Incito, has also become a national supporting partner of the Wisdom Mentoring™ program.

You can have more than one type of mentor in your personal org chart:

  • Internal mentors – this could be a person within your organization who performs the same function as you do. You can also seek someone who performs a different function, to offer different perspectives.
  • External mentors – look for those who are in the same industry as you, as well as someone who is in a different industry.

How to find a mentor (or become one yourself)

Mentor diversity is critical in your growth as a leader. I also recommend seeking mentors who are going through the same things you are going through, whether professionally, like experience dealing with a merger, for example, or personally, such as having young children while working. Being able to relate to someone with similar experiences is beneficial because you can work through challenges together, and share in the experience. It’s also nice to seek mentors who have dealt with similar challenges in the past, but are well past them, so that you can learn from how they got through the situation and know what it might be like on the other side. You do not always have to formally ask someone to be your mentor. Sometimes the dynamic occurs naturally; an informal mentor/mentee relationship can relieve some pressure around the expectations from the partnership. If you’re struggling to get started, I’ve written more about how finding a mentor doesn’t have to be awkward.

If someone approaches you to be their mentor and you don’t feel comfortable or qualified, try your best to fight these feelings of Imposter Syndrome. Becoming a mentor yourself not only enables you to share your own knowledge and wisdom with others, it also opens up your worldview as you connect with your mentees. For example, after being named to the WXN Top 100, a mentor/mentee matching organization called Elevate Aviation approached me to mentor an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. Even though I am technically her mentor, I’ve found that I have received so much more in return – I have already learned so much from her sharing her experiences.

If you are looking to become a mentor, you should reach out to potential mentees whose work you find exciting. You can find them by volunteering, networking, or even following someone’s work that you want to be part of. Go to events big and small. Reach out to your network and tell them about your interests. They might know someone looking to connect, whether or not they have expressed interest in formal mentorship. Put your name forward for any awards, programs, or networks, even at universities.

WXN is a great way to get started on building your org chart’s mentorship arm, whether you are looking for a mentor or a mentee. WXN’s mentorship programs often pair women from different geographical locations and diverse backgrounds. You can learn from others who are doing great things, and pick up skills or insights that you can bring to your own community.

I am grateful to be a Top 100 Winner because it has also helped me connect with my fellow winners: many women with whom I am able to build relationships over time. Forevermore, we have something in common, and we’ve been able to reach out to each other because of it. I’ve stayed in touch with Sandra Sutter, Victoria LaBillois, and Jessica Lui, to name a few. If you have something like this in common with someone you want to connect with, don’t be shy and reach out. The fact that I am able to say “Hey, I’m also a WXN winner. Let’s have coffee,” is just as good as any warm intro.

Learn more about WXN’s Wisdom Mentoring™ program and how you can benefit from a mentor who has faced challenges like yours, how they got to where they are now.

Jenn Lofgren, Founder, Executive Leadership Coach & Consultant for Incito Executive & Leadership Development is a 2019 BMO Entrepreneurs Top 100 Award Winner. She has been recognized a woman who owns and operates a thriving business in Canada.

2020 Top 100 Nominations are now open. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and nominate a powerful female or even yourself!


About Jenn:

Jenn Lofgren – Founder, Executive Leadership Coach & Consultant, Incito Executive & Leadership Development

Jenn Lofgren

2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
BMO Entrepreneurs

Jenn Lofgren helps executives across Canada and worldwide unlock their leadership potential and grow into inspired, authentic leaders. She is one of only 60 recipients of the esteemed Master Certified Coach (MCC) designation in Canada and five per cent of coaches worldwide. Jenn is a champion of local enterprise, an ally to women in business, an actively involved citizen and a passionate member of the global business community.

 

 

I am inspired and feel empowered to change the world

When I received the email that I was selected as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 in the BMO Entrepreneur category, it was an unforgettable moment for me.

I was sitting in a boardroom with about 15 people, deciding on plans for a new development when I received the email from WXN that I was selected as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100. I froze and re-read the email a few times hoping it said what I thought I read. I was suddenly immersed in a different world with two thoughts – I immediately thanked God and put myself into a state of gratitude to God and the universe. I then nudged my brother, Suraj, whom I share a very deep connection with. No words were exchanged, he just looked at me, shared an understanding and we both got up quietly and left the boardroom. We walked out, closed the door, he looks at me with concern in his eyes and said, “Reet?” I quietly yelled, “I GOT TOP 100!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Suraj is my best friend and the reason I am anywhere today. He has been so supportive of me and so it was only suiting that he was the first person to know. He hugged me and said “Dude, I knew you would get this!” We went back into the boardroom and tried to act nonchalant, while inside I was ecstatic!

I have grown up in an industry that has always been male-dominated. I started working at a very young age, in the hotel industry. At this time almost two decades ago, there were so few women in leadership roles, almost nil. I was always working against preconceived notions and judgements that were silently labelled on me, like a child had taped signs to my back that read “She’s the youngest in the room. She’s the only woman. She’s the boss’ daughter”. Dealing with this type of thinking from others at a young age, I taught myself very quickly that I will not work to prove myself to others but rather to prove it to myself. Always working hard to get ahead of the judgements placed on me being a South Asian Woman, this award for me, was the Universe saying, You Did It.

I had two thoughts when I was selected for this award – the first as I mentioned was gratitude. The second was a deep calling that I need to do more, more for women and more for society. I felt this honour is also a responsibility and I want to do everything I can to ensure that I give back and help elevate others. Being selected in the BMO category for entrepreneurs, I spent time with the BMO team and learned about different initiatives the organization has to offer. I was inspired by their efforts towards diversity and so, the day the award was announced, I also launched my company’s first Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. I have also created an internal mentorship program and hope to inspire others to rise in order to achieve their goals. I am inspired and feel empowered to change the world and to inspire others to do the same. I especially hope to inspire women to support one another, to elevate one another and to follow their passion and to achieve their dreams!

I have a Guru from India who has taught me so much when it comes to life and happiness. One of the best lessons I can share is to “Live life with Life”. We must not go through each day as a passing motion but rather live our lives with excitement, with passion, with life. I hope to continue to inspire others to also live life with life!

Reetu Gupta is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the BMO Entrepreneurs category for 2019. She has been recognized as a woman who operates a thriving business in Canada.

2020 Top 100 Nominations are now open. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and nominate a powerful female or even yourself!


About Reetu:

Reetu Gupta is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Easton’s Group of Hotels/The Gupta Group.

Reetu Gupta

2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
BMO Entrepreneurs

Under Reetu Gupta’s leadership The Easton’s Group of Hotels has become one of Canada’s largest private hotel development firms. The Gupta Group is an award-winning residential builder with five million square feet of mixed-used projects currently under development. Reetu is also the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Rogue Insight Capital Ltd., a private venture capital firm. She was recognized as a Top 40 Under 40 winner in 2017.

 

A Top 100 Award Leads Women to That Journey of Success

Humbling. Exhilarating! This is what it felt like to be the winner of one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award.

To be a part of the Top 100 Summit, being amongst the most senior leaders in the industry; to be with them, connect with them, be a part of their discussions, it was a true learning experience.

To come to Canada as an immigrant, to start a business from my basement, to watch it grow into an all-women team and help over 15,000 students find placements in colleges and universities across Canada and around the world… This is a success story for all women, all immigrants, and especially, all immigrant women!

Being a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award winner has re-enforced my belief that “Unless you return the knowledge you have you can’t grow within!” Hence, it’s imperative to continue growing one’s own knowledge. In 2019, I completed my continuing education and graduated. And how do I empower others? As a Co-founder and CEO of Education Consultants Canada (ECC), I recently hired two graduates to be a part of my all-women team. I strongly believe in giving opportunities to students, to do their internship with us and to work with us.

We all do business! But at ECC we aspire to do it a certain way, where our women employees leave with more than just job skills, they are empowered with vital communication and life skills that will carry them throughout their professional and personal journey.

As a winner of a 2019 Top 100 award, it gave the opportunity to experience the Resilience Retreat Workshop conducted by Bank of Montreal. Through interactions and exercises with other award winners, I learned my key leadership strength is empowering my team and I got to take away the feeling of wellness of mind, spirit and body from the workshop as it was about “building resilience from the inside out for women entrepreneurs”.

The theme for the 2019 Top 100 award was ‘A strong woman stands up for herself, but a powerful woman stands up for all of us”. This win is for my all-women’s team! They are the unsung heroes who are young adults just out of school, carrying the enormous responsibility of building, shaping careers, counselling students from all over the world and helping them to integrate into the diverse community.

The path to discovering my personal power as an immigrant woman started with a road-block. I had an academic degree with over 13 years of experience working overseas but could not get my accomplishments recognized when I moved to Canada. It made entering the workforce initially difficult. However, I preferred to look at the obstacles as challenges, and it led to carving a path of untapped opportunity, which has been instrumental in my journey. I wanted to ensure that others who arrived new to Canada didn’t have to face similar struggles, hence, ECC gives opportunities to the novice as a new hire, especially international students. I believe that for students to succeed in their studies in Canada, they have to be armed with right information and the right support structure. I knew I could make an enormous difference, not just to students, but also to Canada! When a student is nurtured to academic success, it paves the way for that student to decide to remain, integrate with the culture and diversity and be a part of the community. THAT is the dream! And ECC helps in aligning that “Canadian dream,” which every immigrant carries with them when leaving their home country.

A Top 100 award win encourages, inspires and recognizes the “unsung heroes”. Women who are pushing boundaries every day and by doing so inspiring and changing lives unknowingly. It is vitally important and a social obligation to give back to the community when one is in a position to do so. It is consequential because only then can one amplify one’s own knowledge, growth and succeed within and outside.

A Top 100 award leads women to “that” journey of success, by giving a forum to share their story of grit, experiences, and personal power that truly allows them to be in sync with diversity, empowerment and inclusion.

Sanchari Sen Rai, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Education Consultants Canada (ECC), is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the BMO Entrepreneurs category for 2019. She has been recognized as a women who owns and operates a thriving business in Canada.

2020 Top 100 Nominations open on International Women’s Day – March 8, 2020. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and nominate a powerful female or even yourself!


About Sanchari:

Sanchari Sen Rai is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Education Consultants Canada (ECC).

Sanchari Sen Rai

2019 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
BMO Entrepreneurs

Sanchari Sen Rai and her all-women team have helped thousands of international students work through the onerous process of applying to study in Canada, getting accepted and flourishing both academically and in their lives. Sanchari believes it is a vitally important social obligation for businesses to give back to the community when they are in a position to do so.

 

Anything worth achieving takes a lot of hard work, energy and passion

Tina Jones imageI never saw myself as breaking new ground; I saw myself chasing ideas.

Success for me is a combination of ideas and vision, passion and plain old hard work, a continual reach for excellence and a constant openness to be challenged. I believe my award to the Top 100 list is a recognition of my work in building relationships and teams of great people.

One idea I chased early on was to build a great wine store. Banville & Jones Wine Company was new territory. I assembled a team of smart, energetic people and the ideas started to flow—ideas about great service to retail and restaurant customers, and ideas to nurture our city’s wine culture. Then came wine appreciation courses. From there, with team members willing to reach the highest international standards, came accredited wine and drinks programs. And because everyone loves wine, travel, and sharing stories, we developed our award-winning magazine, The Cellar Door.

Another idea I chased was a vision that Manitoba could be a centre of excellence for hockey education. Again it was new ground, but with Brad Rice we imagined a new concept and built a leadership team. From there came a hockey academy; new approaches in training and supporting athletes; collaboration with great schooling and focused programs. Now we have launched a $20 million construction project as the infrastructure for these great ideas.

And Winnipeg’s Green Carrot Juice Company was a vision built from a conversation with my friend Obby Khan. We chased the idea of a fresh juice concept by building another team. Today Green Carrot has several locations, including the Winnipeg International airport where we offer a fresh juice, whole food option to travelers.

My father, whose entrepreneurial spirit brought him tremendous success, taught me that anything worth achieving takes a lot of hard work, energy and passion. His inspiration has helped me launch these great ideas.

All this work is valuable only in a world where people matter. My two fabulous children have been central in my life, their education and activities very important. My Mom was such a support to me that I knew I needed to be a support to them. They are now adults, contributing and chasing their own ideas.

We also build a world that matters by contributing to our community and by touching lives through philanthropy work. In supporting community projects through my business and my own volunteer work I have imagined new approaches and new concepts and worked to make them happen. Serving as Chair of the Health Sciences Foundation Board of Directors has been especially rewarding. I was humbled to be named Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year in Manitoba, and to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Manitoba for this work.

Being recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 most powerful women is both humbling and hard to imagine. To be nominated, and then named, to this small list of amazing women is an honour. My colleagues in every facet of my life, and my family, have helped me achieve it: we all talk about “team work” but I know we simply cannot achieve great things alone. To carry this honour forward I will be even more driven to motivate and mentor other young women and men, to build great relationships, and to continue imagining a better world.

Tina Jones, CEO of Banville & Jones Group of Companies, is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the CIBC Trailblazers & Trendsetters Category for 2018. She has been recognized as a woman first in her field that has made a great contribution to Canadian society.

Do you know a female trailblazer who deserves to be recognized for her contribution to Canadian society? Are you a trendsetter that’s made an impact on Canada? Click here to nominate today! It’s free! Deadline to nominate is June 17.

Looking for more information about Top 100? Visit our website for all the ins and outs!

 


About Tina:

Tina Jones is CEO of Banville & Jones Group of Companies

Jones, Tina portrait

2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
CIBC Trailblazers and Trendsetters

Tina Jones is a highly successful Manitoba entrepreneur, community contributor and philanthropist. She is owner of Banville & Jones Wine Company and principal of Wine & Drinks College Manitoba (WDCM), which have grown into the largest private wine store and destination wine school in Manitoba. Tina has reached for the highest international standards, creating opportunities for her staff to pursue studies and accreditation at WDCM and through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, and the Wine Scholar Guild. She has expanded the impact of wine education to develop the award-winning magazine, The Cellar Door.

Tina is also an active partner in The Rink Training Centre, providing innovative individual skill development to all levels of hockey players. Tina is also a pioneer in Winnipeg, with the first Canadian Sports School Hockey League teams, The RHA Nationals. These teams bring unparalleled hockey training along with fine schooling to elite players from across Canada and the USA. The Rink’s success is reflected in a major $20 million Center of Excellence construction project, with completion date scheduled for early 2019.

Tina’s work also extends to partnership in Winnipeg’s popular Green Carrot Juice Company, a concept for fresh, cold-pressed juices that has grown exponentially since its inception in 2014.

Tina’s energy and creativity have also made her a tireless community builder. Her fundraising work with dozens of charitable organizations have helped raise tens of millions of dollars on our community. She currently serves as Chair of the Board of the Health Sciences Centre Foundation Board of Directors. The Association of Fundraising Professionals Manitoba has recognized her contributions as Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year 2017, and the University of Manitoba has honoured her with the Distinguished Alumni Award 2018.

Ms Jones inheirited a strong entrepreneurial spirit from her father Pierluigi Tolaini, who immigrated from Italy and built (from one truck) the largest privately held transport company in Canada. Pierluigi fulfilled a lifelong dream to create great Italian wine, and Tina works with him to build the Tolaini wine brand. For Tina, success is built on vision, hard work, building great teams and continually reaching for excellence.

There is Strength in Vulnerability

Angela Liddon casualReceiving one of WXN’s Canada’s Most Powerful Women Awards coincided with a time in my life when I felt my least powerful. As a mom of two young kids, I’d been struggling with postpartum health issues for a long time and pushed through because I thought how I felt was normal. I honestly didn’t know if I would ever feel like myself again—I was anxious, tired (yet unable to truly relax), and dealing with a long list of other physical symptoms. On the professional side of things, I had a lot of self-doubt and indecision as a business owner. I didn’t know whether I should push through this challenging time, scale back and take a break, or hire more help. At one point, I even doubted whether I should continue as I felt like I wasn’t able to juggle my various hats as a business owner and entrepreneur.

Angela Liddon casual 2When I found out that I’d been selected as one of WXN’s Top 100 Entrepreneurs, I was floored. Without a doubt, this meaningful recognition helped me find my strength and remember the potential I’ve always had within myself. Reading other women’s stories has reminded me that there is strength in vulnerability and that we all have times along our journey that nearly take everything out of us. Going forward, I’ve been even more mindful of sharing my struggles so other women (and men) know that they aren’t alone, and know how important it is to take time for our personal health and let go of perfectionism. Thank you WXN for giving us a platform to share our diverse stories and for supporting and encouraging women all across Canada. It’s truly an honour to be included!

Angela Liddon casual 3Angela Liddon, award winning author and business owner, is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner in the Entrepreneurs Category for 2018. She has been honoured as an female owner and operator of a thriving business in Canada.

On November 21 we will honour women in the BMO Entrepreneurs category – females being recognized for their personal and business contributions as entrepreneurs in Canada. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and don’t forget in 2020 to nominate yourself or another powerful female!

 


About Angela:

Angela Liddon is President of Oh She Glows

Liddon, Angela portrait

2018 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner
Entrepreneurs

Ten years ago, Angela Liddon founded Oh She Glows—a destination for energizing plant-based recipes, stunning food photography, and inspiration for healthy living. Since then, she’s become the award-winning author behind The New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling cookbooks The Oh She Glows Cookbook and Oh She Glows Every Day. In 2014, The Oh She Glows Cookbook was selected as Indigo’s Book of the Year. Most recently, Oh She Glows Every Day took home gold at the 2017 Taste Canada Awards for Health and Special Diet Cookbook of the year. Building on the success of her wildly popular cookbooks, Angela launched The Oh She Glows Recipe App in 2016. It has been downloaded over 200,000 times globally, is regularly selected as Apple’s App of the Day, and is continually lauded for its beautiful design and Angela’s mouthwatering food photography.

In 2009, Angela founded OhSheGlows.com to share her love of vibrant, wholesome, and delicious cooking with the world. Her blog continues to receive millions of visitors each month, readers around the globe praising Angela’s ability to create recipes beloved by vegans and omnivores alike. Angela’s work has been featured in local and international publications such as VegNews, O: The Oprah Magazine, Fitness, The Kitchn, Self, Shape, The National Post, The Guardian, Glamour, The Telegraph, barre3, T.O.F.U., and Best Health, among others. She has also won several major writing and blogging awards, including VegNews’s Best Vegan Blog 2012, 2014, and 2015; Taste Canada’s Health & Special Diet Food Blog 2017; Chatelaine’s Hot 20 under 30 award; and Food Buzz’s Best Veg Blog and Best Overall Blog.

Angela lives in Oakville, Ontario with her husband Eric and their two children.

 

Respectfully Uncensored

RENNEHAN RANT

My (respectfully) uncensored message.

Mandy RennehanI’ve never been afraid to tell it like it is.

Here’s the deal. I’ve used my dyslexia, depression, being a woman in a male-dominated industry, being gay, and being dirt poor as the impetus and fuel to become a multi-millionaire entrepreneur, philanthropist, and the Blue-Collar CEO™. I’m determined to redefine the collar, blue™ by bridging the massive gap between the blue- and white-collar worlds. I’m proud to be both collars, and the blue needs attention NOW!

Why have I made this my priority? For too long, the blue-collar industry, which represents hundreds of careers, has been undervalued, disrespected, and stigmatized by society. In turn, this has created the global perception that skilled trades and blue-collar careers are second-class. We have all been brainwashed into thinking that the smarter kids go to university and the rest go to community college or straight to work. End of story, right? Not so quick…

Some of the most intelligent and successful people I’ve met in my life have come from the blue side of the tracks. However, this perception holds them back from achieving and being even more. I keep hearing, “Mandy, I’m JUST a plumber.” “I am ONLY a welder, who is going to listen to me?“ “I love trucking, but as a young woman, my parents said it’s NOT GOOD ENOUGH and I have to go to university.” I’ve witnessed this my whole life.

Mandy RennehanYou may ask yourself: What does this have to do with me and why should I care?

We have a MASSIVE skilled trade shortage right now! It’s an economic and social issue – consumers (like you!) are paying more and waiting longer for services, companies aren’t able to scale, and we will continue to experience delays on important infrastructure projects, like roads, transit and hospitals. (You think the home reno business is overpriced now? Buckle up, because it’s about to get much, much worse!) The blue-collar perception has kept our trade schools half-full for decades, because who wants to be seen and treated as a second-class citizen?

We need both collars and, right now, we have a major imbalance – university grads without jobs and high-paying skilled trade jobs sitting empty. We need to bridge the divide between the collars and elevate the respect and dignity that society places on the skilled trades and build a sustainable pipeline of workers for the modern economy.

Please help me to start encouraging youth to consider the trades with the same enthusiasm they are urged to consider white-collar jobs. Many parents, even teachers and guidance councillors, don’t promote skilled trades – period! That’s not right. We will continue to see the profound ripple effect of this perception, and the shortage it has produced, for many years to come if we don’t stop it NOW!

The true blending of these two worlds – the blue and the white – will make a colour that none of us will ever want to take off!

Bear hug!

Mandy Rennehan

The Blue-Collar CEO™

Visit MandyRennehan.com for more.
Instagram – @MandyRennehan

We’re very proud that Mandy is a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Hall of Fame Inductee. She is a terrific ambassador of women’s accomplishments and a visible leader who works tirelessly to inspire future generations.

Do you know a woman breaking down barriers in the industry sector or skilled trades? On November 21 we will honour women in the CP Industry Sector & Trades category, celebrating women who have made significant contributions in the industrial sector and skilled trades. Click here to learn more about Top 100 and don’t forget in 2020 to nominate a powerful female or even yourself!


About Mandy

Mandy Rennehan, Blue-Collar CEO™ & Founder, Freshco.ca
Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Hall of Fame Inductee
Rennehan, Mandy portrait

Sought-after speaker, multiple award-winning entrepreneur, and trade industry ambassador, Mandy Rennehan is redefining the collar, blueand inspiring people to join the dynamic skilled trade’s industry. Mandy is the Blue Collar CEO™ & Founder of Freshco.ca (not the grocery store!), Canada’s #1 retail reconstruction and maintenance provider, operating across Canada and the eastern United States serving clients like Anthropologie, Apple, Banana Republic, Home Depot, Lululemon, Nike, Restoration Hardware, Sephora, The Gap, Tiffany & Co., plus many more. She is also the co-founder of RennDuPrat, a master design and custom heirloom furniture fabrication company.

Mandy is humbled by the many awards she’s received including, Growth 500 Excellence in Innovation, Toronto Board of Trade Business Leader of the Year and WXN’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women – Hall of Fame. As one of Canada’s top entrepreneurs she’s also been featured in the Canada 150 Women book , The Globe and Mail, Financial Post, Chatelaine, CTV, BNN and most recently been named Canada’s Most Admired CEO.

Her uncensored honesty is matched by her quick wit, East Coast humour, and big heart. It’s impossible to remain unchanged after coming into contact with this authentic, self-made powerhouse.

Everywhere, Every Day Innovating. Women Entrepreneurs And Innovation

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Executive Summary

Women entrepreneurs are innovating everywhere, every day across Canada. Current policies and discourse that equate innovation solely with advances in technology exclude much of women entrepreneurs’ innovations. The result is a lack of recognition of the significant contribution that women entrepreneurs make to Canada’s innovation and a lack of access to funding to increase their innovation capacity and implementation. This needs to change as women-led businesses today represent 50% of all new businesses (BDC, 2017). Among all small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), 47% are entirely or partly owned by women (Statistics Canada, 2012). Businesses owned by women entrepreneurs make significant contributions to the Canadian economy. Although women-led businesses tend to be smaller than men-led businesses in general, they create more jobs (Statistics Canada, 2012) and have higher survival rates (Benavides-Espinosa and Mohedano-Suanes, 2012; Statistics Canada, 2012).

Contrary to the current discourse around science and technology and funding criteria, innovation is much broader, as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and accepted by Canada 2020’s work as the “implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organizational method in business practices, workplace organization or external relations” (2005, p.46). As a consequence, an innovation can represent many things in an organization. However, in Canada, innovation is often equated to goods, rather than services, and especially in science and technologies. Most of the businesses started by women entrepreneurs are concentrated in the service sector (90%, according to TD Economics, 2015) and women are underrepresented in the science and technology sector (Bahmani & al., 2012; Move the Dial, 2017). This explains partly why women entrepreneurs are seen as less innovative and benefit less from funding opportunities that are concentrated for innovation in high technology as reported by Canada 2020.

In our study, we set out to better understand how and where women entrepreneurs are innovating in Canada. We knew from our previous study, A Force to Reckon With: Women, Entrepreneurship and Risk, that women entrepreneurs are ambitious and want to grow their businesses. Yet there was little information with respect to women entrepreneurs’ innovation and what the factors are that impact their ability to be innovative. After an extensive literature review we realized the insights were limited and would benefit from qualitative interviews that seek to understand the lived reality of women entrepreneurs relating to innovation. Facing overwhelming interest, we interviewed 146 women entrepreneurs throughout Canada, in all sectors and all stages of business from startup to multimillion-dollar businesses, including Indigenous women entrepreneurs who have not received a lot of attention in the literature. Those interviews showed us that women entrepreneurs are innovating in all sectors and in every aspect of their business and are very aware of the constant need to innovate to stay competitive and grow.

From the interviews, we found that innovations of women entrepreneurs are often inhibited by lack of access to capital for startup and growth, ageism (as women tend to start a business in a later stage of their life and age out of funding programs) and sexism and harassment from investors and clients. Funding opportunities do not always match women entrepreneurs’ goals as they were not available in their sectors or would not take into account their desire to help their community by promoting local products, for instance. Collaboration and partnerships are also key elements for women entrepreneurs. Mainstream networks, incubators and accelerators are often not welcoming to women entrepreneurs, yet networks, mentoring and growth opportunities are considered to be important to entrepreneurial success.

As for Indigenous women entrepreneurs, the literature is not abundant. In the interviews, we found that Indigenous women entrepreneurs are also innovating in all aspects of their businesses. They view collaboration as essential and want to support their communities. Indigenous women entrepreneurs face the same challenges as all women entrepreneurs with the additional burdens of prejudice, possible lack of support from their family and community, lack of role models, often more child and family responsibilities, lack of business training and lack of access to high-speed internet on more isolated reserves.

Governments, cities and financial institutions have both the opportunity and responsibility to include and support women entrepreneurs by developing inclusive innovation policy and programs that enable all innovation, no matter what sector, to be supported and recognized. Women must be involved from design to implementation to ensure their perspectives and experiences shape the policy and programs to be inclusive to all. While there is a very important focus on encouraging women to enter the STEM fields and technology and supporting advances in technology and sciences, recognizing and valuing women’s innovation in all areas is equally vital. Canada needs an innovative society, which can be fostered through recognition and support of innovators in all sectors. A number of recommendations are offered to build a truly inclusive innovation strategy that embraces innovation in all sectors, not only those involving new technologies.

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Authored by:

Clare Beckton BA, LLB, MPA

Janice McDonald BA, MA, ICD.D, MFA

Maude Marquis-Bissonnette MPA, PhD candidate