‘Business is better when women are in business. We are all better when women are in business.’ Cape Breton Voices.
‘Community over competition.’ Ms. New Brunswick.
‘Inspiring women in Atlantic Canada: Not a supply problem.’ Amplify East.
Three taglines from three projects that are all female-founded and female-focused, all working to build the collective profile of women who are driving the economic future of Atlantic Canada.
Annette Verschuren is the former president of Home Depot Canada and Asia. She created the group Cape Breton Voices with a vision to promote entrepreneurial stories of Cape Breton women. Verschuren knows that women are “inextricably tied” to the rejuvenating economically challenged communities. Before her Home Depot days, she worked for the Cape Breton Development Corporation and helped award funding for various businesses. “I remember lending money for sewing machines … bakeries … and those were the ones that stayed alive. And I saw all those big companies where we gave them a lot of money, when the money ran out they left,” she stated at a launch event last month.
The power of small, female driven businesses is also the focus of a Ms. New Brunswick, a project launched this year by Saint John writer Ingrid Munroe. Each week she profiles another “creative, passionate genius” who is making New Brunswick her home. Munroe reflects on the common thread she finds among her interview subjects:
“Something that everyone has already figured out is that the more we can help each other out, promote and support one another, the more we benefit ourselves. A rising tide lifts all boats. I want to be the tide, don’t you?”
A third project, with a similar goal of promoting the stories of these Atlantic Canadian women accomplishing great things, is Vanessa Paesani’s Amplify East. Paesani sees her profiles as a means to shift society’s view as to the roles women play in shaping industry and beyond.
“I believe we can change culture by giving people tools to talk about it – to be intentional about what values are being amplified through our words and behaviours. The goal of this project is to amplify the voices of women in Atlantic Canada – to showcase [that] it’s not a supply problem – it’s a mindset problem.”
Telling stories is simply the first step.
Verschuren is also part of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, one of ten female leaders asked to advise both federal governments. She and Elyse Allan, Vice President of GE, recently presented a list of initiatives that could increase the number of women in business. These ideas include challenging organizations to track the progress of female entrepreneurs, continued improvements in child care strategies, increased supplier diversity procurement programs, and creating a targeted public procurement program in Canada, similar to the U.S. Women Owned Small Business program.
The council also highlights the funding gap between male and female-founded companies, stating that as much as seven times more money is awarded to men, despite the statistics that show “companies with at least one female founder outperformed all male-founding teams by 63% over the past 10 years.” Taking bold – yet calculated – steps to increase the number of women in business will “not only drive cultural change but we will also move the economies of both nations,” concludes the Council.
That’s the big picture stuff, which is important. But so is the grassroots stuff, like sharing the stories presented in Amplify East, Ms. New Brunswick, and Cape Breton Voices. Let’s keep working to play our part in rising the tide of female leaders on the East Coast.