Where ambition takes us

Women's Entrepreneurship Day 2021: The best time to talk about women’s ambition

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This year’s Women Entrepreneurship Day on November 19 is especially important because it not only reaffirms the essential role that women play in the success of Canadian businesses but also coincides with a period of reflection brought on by both the pandemic and major global issues we are facing, such as climate change.

Since joining BDC a few months ago, I have heard business leaders making the same observation: We can no longer do business as we used to. We are operating in a new environment where the criteria for success have permanently changed.

Performance is no longer measured solely in financial terms but also using environmental, social and governance indicators. Any company that wants to expand its customer base, attract investors and talent must consider its impact equation.

Our business community needs women

To reinvent themselves in the face of a new reality, organizations have no choice but to look at things from different angles and open the door to a greater diversity of viewpoints. This should start with the perspective of women, who are still too often a minority in decision-making circles and at the helm of our companies.

Women represent about half of Canada's population and workforce but only account for 28% of all business owners. This needs to change.

More than ever, the business community needs women to invent what comes next, after the pandemic, after COP26, in a new era where nothing will ever be the same again.

And the more conventional leaders who do not make more room for women will quickly realize that they are on the wrong track. The same goes for the inclusion of all underrepresented peoples.

This is how the magic happens—when you have a wide diversity of opinions, ideas and visions. It makes me very optimistic for the future to see that more and more organizations understand this.

More than ever, the business community needs women to invent what comes next, after the pandemic, after COP26, in a new era where nothing will ever be the same again.

What better time for women who want to start a business?

Yes, the last 20 months have been difficult, but I think we have a golden opportunity to reinvent ourselves, and I see such an important role for ambitious women!

Having met many women in business—whether through The A Effect initiative that I co-founded to help women in business grow or over the course of my professional career in the private and government sectors—I can confirm that we are no less ambitious than men, but many of us are still too timid about achieving our ambitions.

The key is to build your comfort zone around the idea of ambition, to feel entitled to have ambitions, then to communicate them and finally to achieve them. The more risks we take, the more confidence we gain in persuading others, while sharpening our negotiation skills in the process.

The key is to build your comfort zone around the idea of ambition, to feel entitled to have ambitions, then to communicate them and finally to achieve them.

To those who are still too timid to realize their ambition, I say go for it! To those who don't dare to raise their hand, now is the time!

I'm glad to see that ambitious women are not afraid to call themselves ambitious. Every day I read or hear about a woman business owner who is changing the equation... I've met a few of you since I joined BDC—I'm so inspired by your energy!

Listening circles for and with women entrepreneurs

As a bank for all entrepreneurs, BDC has made it a priority to support women entrepreneurs. And as the first woman at the helm of BDC, I want to better understand how we can be even more relevant to you: women entrepreneurs. We can and must do more—do better.

This is why we are launching a pan-Canadian tour—a series of listening circles with and for women entrepreneurs. I look forward to meeting with you, listening to you and learning more about your needs and opportunities for growth and how BDC can better support you. We will also have the opportunity to network and exchange with other women entrepreneurs.

Together with our women entrepreneurs’ champions, I will be visiting several Canadian cities in the months to come.

Follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to get all the details.

Much to celebrate, yet still a lot more to do

While waiting to meet you in person, my dear women entrepreneurs from all across Canada, we have much to celebrate this Women's Entrepreneurship Day.

You are more numerous, more ambitious, more visible and more audible. You set examples and inspire other women to aim higher and go further.

Let's make sure, as women, that we don't exclude ourselves from the opportunities we want to seize, that we don't shy away from challenges merely because we fear they are bigger than us and that we act in accordance with our convictions.

However, we also have a lot of work to do. According to the World Economic Forum, the pandemic has set back gender equality by 35 years around the globe. Before the pandemic 100 years were needed to eliminate gender disparities. We now need 135 years! We need to act with even more determination than before.

Let's make sure, as women, that we don't exclude ourselves from the opportunities we want to seize, that we don't shy away from challenges merely because we fear they are bigger than us and that we act in accordance with our convictions.

Don't expect your idea to be perfect but rather aim for excellence in progress. Reach out to others, especially those who resemble you the least. You won't please everyone, but so what? You'll go where your ambition takes you.

See you soon!

Isabelle

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