Laura Didyk, is Vice President and National Lead, Women Entrepreneurs, Business Development Bank of Canada
What is your role with the BDC and what do you do?
Didyk: The BDC is only bank dedicated exclusively to entrepreneurs. After I worked there for 25 years, it created my dream job, working with women entrepreneurs. As National Lead, Women Entrepreneurs, I work with, and learn from, smart, successful women business owners. I then take those learnings to lead the bank’s national strategy to help all Canadian women entrepreneurs grow. I work with a dedicated team of more than 100 champions across the country to ensure the bank delivers on its commitment to support the growth and success of women entrepreneurs. That starts with helping women overcome their biggest obstacle: funding. In 2018, BDC doubled its lending target for majority women-owned businesses to $1.4 billion by 2021. That same year, we almost tripled the size of our Women in Technology Venture Fund – making it the largest venture fund in the world investing in women in tech and investment roles. We are already ahead of schedule on both metrics. We also provide many free on-line resources and partner with like-minded organizations to help women expand here and abroad.
What about the gender balance in Canadian entrepreneurs?
Didyk: In Canada, we are a nation of entrepreneurs. Ninety-nine per cent of all businesses are small and medium sized businesses yet only 28 per cent of entrepreneurs are women. That number drops to 16 per cent when you look at majority women-owned businesses. This is a problem because gender diversity makes our businesses stronger and our economy stronger. Research shows, time and time again, that companies with gender diverse leadership teams deliver higher profits, more revenue and better innovation. In fact, new analysis from the Boston Consulting Group says if women and men participated equally as entrepreneurs the GDP could rise by $5 trillion globally and $80 billion in Canada. The good news is that we are moving in the right direction. Over the past 40 years, the number of women entrepreneurs has quadrupled and is growing three times as fast as men but there is a still a long way to go.
Are women more or less willing to become entrepreneurs than men? Why?
Didyk: I think people’s traits and motivation, less so than their gender, makes them likely to pursue entrepreneurship. In a recent survey, BDC found that most (70 per cent) entrepreneurs started their own business for the independence to be their own boss, compared to only 34 per cent who did it for financial reasons. And looking at entrepreneurship through a gender lens, we know women face unique challenges when it comes to starting a business. They have less access to capital, earn less revenue, have fewer mentors to learn from and smaller networks to support them as they grow. The hurdles women face in starting and growing a business are well documented, which can make pursuing entrepreneurship less appealing. That said, last year 39 per cent of all the people who started businesses were women and every day, I hear from more women who have or want to start their own business.
What is the importance of the recent Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and what is its purpose?
Didyk: November 19 was Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. It was a day to celebrate women business owners, raise awareness of their products and services and inspire women to start businesses. This day originated in 2014 at the United Nations Women’s Entrepreneurship Summit and now it is celebrated annually around the world. While the day is a symbolic gesture, the bigger goal is to start a movement to drive economic expansion and advance communities worldwide by tapping into diverse leadership. For anyone reading this who isn’t an entrepreneur but want to help, you can support women entrepreneurs by buying and promoting their products and services and by asking them how you can help. These simple actions will make a big difference
for a business owner.
Who are some of the key female business leaders you have coached and mentored?
Didyk: I feel privileged to work with smart, successful women business owners across Canada every day. Women with businesses from all industries and sizes and I can attest to one thing that we can all agree on: we thrive when we work together. One local person that I have worked with and have admired for many years is Karen Brookman. After building and selling a successful
eDiscovery business a few years ago, Karen was ready for her next challenge and found it back at home, here in Calgary. She has recently taken over the reins of her family business, West Canadian Digital Imaging, from her father, George Brookman, and she has national growth ambitions for the company. I have been happy to work with Karen and her family for two decades now and also feel privileged to have had the opportunity to learn from them over the years too. I encourage everyone to invest time in supporting an entrepreneur because it is not only valuable to them, it’s rewarding for you.
Laura Didyk was interviewed by Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business.
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