The Importance of Empowering Equality In Business
On March 8th it is International Women’s Day. When I saw this year’s campaign headline and mission — #BeBoldForChange — I was inspired to reflect on what I can do as a woman entrepreneur and business owner “to help forge a better working world – a more gender inclusive world.”
Born in Hong Kong, I was a young girl growing up in a traditional Chinese home with 4 sisters and 2 brothers and recognized early the inequalities my birthright created for me. I was aware, even as a child, that I would have to learn to be powerful, and fight for the opportunities I deeply desired.
In a culture that does not support gender equality, I refused to “stay small” just because I was born a girl, and refused to conform to the limited beliefs and traditional conditionings that were placed on me. My desire to step into life, underscored the drive I felt to set high personal standards for both professional and personal growth. This drive for equal opportunities became a rooted in development and was the guiding principle on my career path .
This principle of equality has become one of the foundations for my business philosophy and core values. I now own and operate my own accounting firm and specialize in cross-border tax. I know that my journey here was reliant on my boldness, but it was also inspired, supported and guided by some amazing women and men along the way.
The need for gender equality.
A little more than half of Canada’s population are women, so creating greater opportunities means making the most of our collective potential human talent pool. When countries achieve gender equality they maximize their competitiveness and economic potential by accessing greater depths and potential of their population.
As former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says, “improving gender equality creates immediate benefits. Families are healthier, they are better fed, their income, savings and reinvestment go up. And what is true of families is true of communities and, eventually, the world.” When we eliminate rigid stereotypes that limit any person’s potential, our communities grow together, our economy is stronger, and our pool of future leaders is more diverse.
The glaring wage gap in Canada.
Although 62% of university undergraduate students in Canada are women, they don’t necessarily end up getting paid better once they are in the work force.
Even with a university degree, women earn 10-30% less than men with a comparable education. Indigenous women earn 26% less than non-indigenous men, while racialized women earn 32% less than non-racialized men.
Top women executives at S&P 500 companies were studied and continue to be paid less, on average, compared to their male peers.
A study from the Status of Women Canada warned that the “pay gap” in Canada is one of the worst among the world’s industrialized countries.
Canadian women working full-time earn on average on 72% of what men earn – a drop of 2.4% since 2009.
Women empowering women.
Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities. Women instinctively get this – and women entrepreneurs can be the catalyst to changing gender bias.
I am constantly amazed by the bold steps made by women facing the unique choices and obstacles that come with our gender. The ones who are willing to break outside the box, and courageously take risks and challenge sexist gender stereotypes. By stepping into their power, women start a ripple effect that improves economic and social conditions for everyone.
The World Economic Forum states, “the most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness is its human talent – the skills, education and productivity of its workforce.”
Council For Advancement Of Women Entrepreneurs And Business Leaders.
President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced the creation of a Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.
A round table of female entrepreneurs came together through the invitation of Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, and US President Trump, to discuss critical issues faced by American and Canadian women in business. The women entrepreneurs joining the roundtable were primarily heads of Canadian companies and included Dawn Farrell, CEO of Canada’s TransAlta; Monique Leroux, chair of the Board of the Quebec Investment Fund and the chair of the Economy Council of the province; Tina Lee, CEO of T&T Supermarket; Carol Stephenson, a board member at General Motors; Tamara Lundgren, president and CEO of Schnitzer Steel Industries; Elyse Allan, CEO of GE Canada; Annette Verschuren, CEO of NRStor; Julie Sweet, CEO of North America for Accenture; and Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar Corporation.
The roundtable council’s aim is to promote the growth of women-owned businesses, and the goal to improve overall economic growth and the partnership between Canada and the US.
“Women’s access to capital was a major theme that came up during the roundtable”, a senior White House official was quoted. Another developing program called “return-ship” was on the agenda. The program focuses on helping women integrate back into the workforce after prolonged absences, with ways to help the development of new technology and industry skills for woman who have been out of the work force for long periods.
“To create economic growth and lots of very good, well-paying jobs, we must ensure that our economy is a place where women can work and thrive,” Trump said.
Trudeau said in his statement, “Whenever I sit down with a woman executive, I know that she has had to overcome significant barriers that exist, and therefore is likely to have greater insight into how to help reduce those barriers for others, but also be a formidable contributor to the success of business and her economy.”
It takes money to make money.
As women entrepreneurs, we understand the challenges as we grow our businesses, to access the capital we need to start new ventures or develop existing businesses to the next level. Finding necessary capital is an ongoing challenge, and it often takes support and experience to work through the options — personal savings, traditional bank loans, venture capital money and crowdfunding can all be effective strategies, if you have powerful resources to help guide you.
Even with a good business strategy, combined with tenacity and persistence, women continue to struggle with this barrier to get the necessary resources for their business start-up. Research still shows that access to capital remains the biggest obstacle to the growth of women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses.
Below are some tips for raising capital and increasing cash flow, and getting the financial resources you need to start your business.
Get to know your financial advisors and build your team of people you can trust to guide you. A lot of women-owned business owners may have access to different resources but may not know who to go to specifically.
Accountants & Tax Specialists
Banks and Financing Institutions
Business Groups & Industry Support Organizations
Build your credit. A lot of time, the financial habits someone has in their personal life transfer over to their professional financial habits. Look at your credit scores. Make sure you make payments on time. Keep your debt-to-income ratio in check. These are things banks look at when lending.
Look at different funding options, whether it’s a line of credit, manufacturing loans or something else. You can go through conventional financing or work with a lender that supports Small Business Development.
Maintain positive cash flow with your company. Project what your revenues will be over the next 5 years, and monitor what sales are coming to make sure can cover the short and long term expenses, and you will be positioned to grow your capital base.
You also want to look at whatever debt you’ve acquired as a company. If you are looking at borrowing money, showing that positive cash flow will show the lender that you’ve given thought and have a strategy to grow effectively.
Keep your accounting systems organized and up to date. Your day to day management of this area of your finances will impact you when it comes to tax time. Our experience coaching entrepreneurs to success shows that applying basic principles and best practices throughout the year eliminates the worry. This allows you to feel confident knowing you have everything in place. A well thought out system, and discipline applied to it, will minimize the work load. Here are some tips on what you can do now to prepare for a smooth tax season. (see more on tax organization systems)
Keep your personal and business accounts separate. A lot of business owners—both men and women—don’t do this. They run personal expenses like cell phones or car payments for the family through the company, which distorts cash flow for the company. This can affect building business credit.
Own your right to your financial potential. Claim your responsibilities as a taxpayer.
Take care of your taxes. I have learned through 24 years of working with clients that this can sub-consciously be an indication of how you take care of your life in general, reflecting the limiting factor to reaching your highest potential. There is an elephant in the room, and it is the government. There is no upside to fight them. Find the support and resources you need to feel safe to claim their rights and responsibilities as a taxpayer.
Get the advice and guidance you need as a woman, as a business owner, as a mother or spouse. Know your position, and understand how this can affect your life now, and in the future. Too often, women give up their power out of lack of knowledge, fear to challenge the status quo, or trusting someone else will care of it. Empower yourself. When you take care of your own finances, you truly own your financial potential.
As a woman, know when and where to find your trusted resource, and when to be that trusted resource to another. Look for opportunities to help unleash the limitless potential of all women, and make it part of your purpose. Collaborate, coach, mentor. Be the change, be a leader within your own sphere of influence and take the bold step towards building gender equality.
Help women enter high-wage occupations.
Help girls enter STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers.
Address systemic discrimination, particularly in male-dominated fields.
Advocate for improved workplace policies (childcare, family leave, etc.).
Recognize stereotypes that reinforce inequality.
Invest or contribute to community programs that help women to launch their own business, learn a skilled trade.
Along the way, each woman can contribute to Canada’s economy and create a more secure future for herself, her family and her children.
To grow equality, every person needs to be empowered to step into their strengths and build upon them without the lens of gender, race or religion limiting them from reaching their greatest potential.
Resources: Featured article on bizjournals.com from a senior VP and business banking manager with Wells Fargo.