By Willa Black, Cisco Canada, VP Corporate Affairs
I was at a great panel discussion today where I heard two VERY successful women entrepreneurs talk about what made them successful. Their points, loud and clear, were simple: First – know your stuff. Be a business person first and foremost. Second: be yourself. Be confident and bold.
And today, on International Women’s Day – I find myself thinking about all the incredible women that I know – leaders in businesses large and small, leaders in government, mothers, volunteers and mentors. And I think about how the women I admire most and the ones that have the greatest success – at whatever they put their minds to – are absolutely and authentically themselves. They bring their creativity and passion to what they do and how they do it. They stand up for what they believe is right, they learn from mistakes, and aren’t afraid to take risks. They work hard.
And today, we applaud these women. Because the truth is that Canada needs more of them.
Year after year we’ve watched Canada’s innovation rankings slip lower and lower. Despite a decade or so of innovation agendas and prosperity reports, Canada remains near the bottom of its peer group on innovation, ranking 13th among the 16 peer countries. We can’t afford complacency. We need to zero in on what is working and do more of it. And all the data tells us that entrepreneurship led by women is a huge untapped resource. And when you see an untapped source of potential and innovation, you need to mine it.
Here are the stats: Since 2011, women entrepreneurs have driven an aggregate contribution of $148 billion dollars in economic activity – it doesn’t take long to consider the math and what it would mean for Canada if we were to bump that up by a very conservative 10 per cent. That number would climb close to $200 billion dollars in the next decade. Canada has over 1.4 million small-medium businesses. And yet only 15 per cent are majority owned by women.
We need to get a handle on the barriers and understand what’s holding them back. Research shows that women who participate in entrepreneurship make meaningful economic and social contributions, but, many women business founders struggle to access the capital, technology, networks and the knowledge that they need to successfully start and grow their business.
Cisco wants to help with that. We are at the heart of information technology and innovation. And we know that women struggle in particular with technology strategies – everything from how to network an office, to how to develop the applications to build customer reach and intimacy. We have an ecosystem of partners, resources and services that can help fill the gaps, so why not share these tools to help our women entrepreneurs?
With the launch of Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle (WEC), we will be doing just that. Because it’s the right thing do – and because supporting our talented, smart, creative and hard working women entrepreneurs in not only good for them – it’s good for Canada.
– Willa Black
About Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle
There are three main areas of the program that will enable women to power their businesses with the newest technology and effectively map and accelerate their digital strategy.
1. Circle of Learning: Enhancing Digital Knowledge through the Cisco Canada Women Entrepreneur Academy. Cisco is offering seven free online virtual training courses, totaling over 90 hours of training, aimed to help small and medium enterprise leaders build their business and IT strategy. Courses include: Entrepreneurship, Get Connected, Introduction to Cybersecurity and much more!
2. Circle of Productivity: Powering Your Business with Cisco. Customized by business size, the Cisco Entrepreneur Xperience is a discounted product bundle that is easy to deploy and features everything you need to get your business communicating, collaborating, and connected. Cisco makes it simple with this ‘Office in a Box’ offer!
3. Circle of Innovation: Bringing your Digital Strategy to Life. An internship program managed by Cisco in collaboration with Communitech and Business Development Bank of Canada with interns from the University of Waterloo. Interns will be funded by Cisco, paired with women entrepreneurs and a Cisco engineer to mentor them during the 12-week program to build the entrepreneur’s digital strategy and expand the company’s reach and success in the marketplace.
To learn more please visit: www.cisco.com/ca/wec