Erin Stephenson

Why More Women Should Take the Entrepreneurial Plunge

Erin Stephenson
Why More Women Should Take the Entrepreneurial Plunge

Over the years I have seen women face many corporate challenges–under representation in leadership roles, pay inequality, lack of mentorship and recognition–each a result of the glass ceiling.

A 2017 McKinsey & Co. study revealed that women represent only a mere 20 percent of C-Suite roles. Thanks to women like Sheryl Sandberg and Melinda Gates–two of my business role models–and many more local entrepreneurs in our communities, we’re more aware now than ever that we still have work to do. Breaking through these corporate glass ceilings isn’t the only way to achieve success in business. Women need to harness the power of their experiences and ideas to develop companies in spaces that don’t currently exist, and build teams that foster an environment of growth and support for women. It’s time to take the entrepreneurial plunge!

When we founded DOZR in 2015, I knew I was going to fight an uphill battle–after all, only 18 percent of all startups have at least one female founder (Inc. 2015) and female led companies receive notably less venture capital funding. Starting your own business doesn’t make you immune to the system of discrimination, but it does allow you to be in control of your own destiny. I knew that the only way to conquer this new adventure in entrepreneurship was to face these unique challenges head-on. It wasn’t always easy bridging two male dominated industries (technology and construction) and I had to work hard to make connections and build my network. I started by leveraging programs through organizations like Communitech, Google for Entrepreneurs, and Blackbox to give me a much needed kick-start. From there I was able to make connections with other like minded female founders facing similar challenges both locally and abroad. These connections proved invaluable in forming a peer group that openly shares experiences (both positive and negative) with one another in a safe environment and accessing the whisper network to figure out who are the true supporters of female founders in the investment community and beyond.  

Gender equality is as good for business as it is for the individuals involved. Diversity in teams produce stronger results and higher revenue, which lead to continuous opportunities for everyone, not just women. However it is the unfortunate reality that women are promoted less often than men and, as a result, hold a lower proportion of executive roles. In support of bridging this equality gap in the workplace, I am proud to say that DOZR is committed to championing progressive diversity practices. We are starting by actively working to make smart changes to our recruitment processes and workplace policies to ensure that women are supported throughout their careers, and that hiring and promotions are fair end-to-end. We see this as an investment in long-term productivity, morale and talent.

Something myself and the other DOZR co-founders have always embraced is developing strong relationships with our peers and professional networks. One of the smartest decisions I ever made when founding DOZR was focusing on growing a network of sponsors and supporters. Our hope is that stronger professional networks among women can be one way to help create new opportunities for women to start and grow their own businesses. I am a huge supporter of up-and-coming businesses led by women, and welcome female founders into my network with open arms. Communitech is one of the great organizations serving entrepreneurs in our community–they helped DOZR get off the ground and is a strong supporter of female entrepreneurs and women in leadership roles. In Canada, there are many programs built to support female entrepreneurs including Fierce Founders and the Business Development Bank of Canada. These programs can help women in business connect with investors, build relationships with their peers or learn more about the societal constructs that disadvantage women and how they can counteract those forces in the workplace. We need to continue to push behind support for these female founders, and focus on helping these women to scale their businesses and grow quickly.

So where do we go from here? It’s time to move beyond the statistics and start walking the walk. We need to go beyond discussing the barriers, challenges and inequalities and start actively supporting women in business and female entrepreneurs. As business leaders, we need to develop an action plan to figure out how to overcome this long-term and change the criteria by which we measure success. An increase in women founders and diverse policies at the organizational level will help to break the cycle and share successes of female entrepreneurs with the world.

It’s been over two years since DOZR took its roots and I’m proud of the constant efforts we are making to break the glass ceiling within our own organization, and of the example we can set for other businesses. I’m also proud of my ability to draw from my experiences as a woman entrepreneur and mentor young women in the industry, who will hopefully help build more equitable businesses, either their own or those they join.