Ilse Treurnicht
CEO, MaRS Discovery District

There is no question that innovation and entrepreneurship will determine our destiny, both here at home as well as globally. Our future success depends on the talent, ideas, and drive of our entrepreneurs —  yet women, who comprise half of this talent base, are not being engaged to their full potential.

Mobilizing our talent

It is true that women are becoming entrepreneurs in record numbers. In fact, female small business owners now make up one-third of Canada’s self-employed. 

However, this does not hold true for technology-focused sectors, where only a fraction of women are founders or work in leadership roles. In the case of high-growth tech ventures, only five percent of founders are women.

Canada must mobilize all of its talent to succeed in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Women now comprise the majority of graduates from our post-secondary education institutions, and we need them engaged in building the next generation of innovative Canadian enterprises. 

Female founders flourish

The data on the benefits of female founders and executives is overwhelmingly positive: study after study has confirmed that both young and established companies with women leaders at the table perform better, have better capital efficiency, and are more resilient. Despite this, women entrepreneurs still struggle to access risk capital and critical customer and partner networks to grow and scale their businesses globally. These challenges are particularly acute in technology-intensive, high-growth businesses — important job engines of modern economies.

Pursuing passion

There is another reason why we need to encourage more women to enter this arena: entrepreneurship opens up a world of work in which women can pursue what is meaningful to them.

Young entrepreneurs of both genders are increasingly interested in tackling societal problems alongside driving profits. The world needs this kind of innovation. We must actively encourage and support women and girls to bring their smarts, their passion, and their unique perspectives to the table. They have much to contribute — and Canada and the world have much to gain.