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Changing expectations: Women leading the way for today’s entrepreneurs

Changing expectations: Women leading the way for today’s entrepreneurs 

According to a report from TD Economics examining Canadian entrepreneurship, since 2009, the overall share of entrepreneurs versus paid employment has been fairly flat. However, during that same period, the report also found that there was a significant increase in the number of women becoming entrepreneurs.

So what’s changed? Why is the time ripe for women to start new businesses?

A cultural shift in the world has helped to provide more women with opportunities to launch their own business. Today, women looking to launch their own business now have more access to capital, better media representation of women leaders, and networks and communities of women leaders to tap into for resources and support.

Nancy Harris Sage software

Greater Access to Capital

There are generally two things needed to launch a new business – a good idea/product/service and the capital to make it a reality.  In the past, it has been more difficult for women-led start-ups to access capital through traditional means.

Thankfully the number of female accredited investors has risen considerably in recent years, which is helping to fuel the growth of women entrepreneurs. Today, one in four angel investors are women, a dramatic jump of 234% in 10 years. 

Leading by Example

Media plays a vital role in inspiring entrepreneurship. In recent years more focus has been placed on women business leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and Mary Barra, CEO and Chairman of General Motors. Showcasing women leaders and their impact have had two positive effects on the business world, according to a recent Forbes article.

Firstly, media can shine a light on the challenges women face. By highlighting the lack of diversity within a given industry can help to pressure the industry’s leaders into change. 

Secondly, the increased media attention plays an important role in inspiring entrepreneurship and this, in turn, helps the next generation of female leaders.  As more women entrepreneurs become successful, they mentor, invest in, and provide tools and resources to train other women.


This increased access to networks, support, and resources of fellow women entrepreneurs are one of the contributing factors for the growth of women entrepreneurs in Canada and around the world. During the planning of, launch and ongoing operations of a business, organizations like Women’s Executive Network and Women of Influence, can be invaluable sources of information and inspiration to draw on.

Changing Expectations

There has been a shift of the cultural ethos and today’s women leaders are finding their own voice in the world.  This is in-part due to the changing expectations with regards to higher education.

Success and knowledge tend to go hand-in-hand. It’s not uncommon that successful entrepreneurs are also highly educated.  So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that parallel to the growing number of women entrepreneurs, women now outnumber men in global university attendance and graduation rates.

According to a report from Statistics Canada, 64.8 percent of working-age women now have a post-secondary education. Furthermore, a report from Britain’s Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) found that girls born in 2016, will be 75 percent more likely than males to attend university.  As such, the next generation of women entrepreneurs will have the foundation to succeed.

So going back to the original questions: why is the time ripe for women to start new businesses? There have been amazing changes within finance, media, and the business world that have led to more opportunities for women to succeed in the SME market. As gender expectations continue to change for the better, women will be leading the entrepreneurial charge for years to come. 

Nancy Harris, is EVP, Sales and Partner Programs for Sage North America

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