We are thrilled to be sharing a series here on L-SPARK’s blog that features incredible female founders and funders. While we are leading up to International Women’s Day, we believe that women should be celebrated all year so we’ll be posting these female founder and funder posts on a regular basis.

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It wouldn’t be a Female Founders & Funders series without including this dynamic, change-making, whole-self-giving woman. Jodi Kovitz, Founder & CEO of #movethedial, is setting the bar high and leading the charge when it comes to having the important conversations that are SO needed in this space.

Jodi’s movement, #movethedial, has taken the Internet by storm and is setting the stage for challenging the current status quo. Here’s Jodi.

Which Canadian women entrepreneur(s) or women business owner(s) inspires you most?

I am incredibly inspired by Maayan Ziv. She is building a huge global company based on filling a huge market need and opportunity to drive global connectivity around accessibility for all humans. I deeply admire her tenacity, courage and her vision.

I am also inspired by my grandmother, who was an entrepreneur in her day. She was the first female on the board of ESSO Imperial Oil and the first woman Chancellor at the University of Calgary. She received an Order of Canada for these tremendous achievements and she inspires my work every day to #movethedial.

How does empowering and investing in women entrepreneurs benefit communities & society?

I believe that the more we invest in all entrepreneurs, including incredibly talented female entrepreneurs, the more we win as a society. Designing solutions for the future for our entire population, a huge part of which is driven by female consumers, will only benefit all of us.

We know that the proportion of SMEs entirely owned by women in Canada is increasing. But not fast enough. How can we speed up the process?

According to a recent report that #movethedial put out called “Where’s the Dial Now?”, 5% of entrepreneurs of tech companies are women. Similarly, female-founded small-medium sized entities of all kinds are founded by women on a far less frequent basis than by men. I believe that a few different tactics are required to speed up the process to create more female entrepreneurs, particularly those that build larger businesses and have productive outcomes.

1 – Providing more funding to female-founded businesses, as the government has recently done, is crutial.

2 – I also believe that network is very important to being successful in any business. I recently conducted a focus group with female founders about their businesses, and they all spoke about how helpful it is to be extended credibility by being surrounded by other successful, connected entrepreneurs.

Facilitating those connections and that network is also key. Taking this one step further, access to this network also helps female founders to access opportunities for profile, brand awareness, and for supporting growth of businesses.

There are many founders that happen to be women that have the skills to build their companies. I don’t necessarily assume that just because a founder is a women that she requires skill development or capacity building. There are many great organizations that focus on this and that I support, but for me, fundamentally, the key is access to capital and access to network.

What’s your advice for women looking to start a business, and do not necessarily know where to begin?

I strongly encourage and support any founder that has a big dream in exploring his or her idea to build a business. There are many incredibly programs offered in Canada that can help aspiring entrepreneurs to be successful.

One such program is called Futurepreneur. I highly support and believe in all the work that they do. They help for example from a very grassroots level in building a business plan to help individuals with ideas to cultivate them into actual businesses. That organization happens to have an incredible female leader, Julia Deans.

There are many such programs across Canada specific to tech sector. There’s the Ryerson DMZ for example, building an incredible accelerator for female-led businesses. Also, certainly through our programming at at #movethedial we offer a robust network and collection of programs to support women in building their businesses.

I believe the key however is really female entrepreneurs having the confidence in themselves to bring their businesses to life.

Diversity Matters. What can we do to get more women on boards or for women to gain more leadership roles?

We need to shine a light on the many talented women that can contribute so much skill and thought to our boards and executive teams.

I believe that the work that our #movethedial boards committee has done demonstrates a need to proactively engage the decision-makers appointing board slates. It’s about active networking. A list isn’t sufficient. There are many lists that exist lead by wonderful organizations. What I have discovered however through our research is that it’s lists PLUS.

We find tremendous success when asked by boards looking to move the dial. Though activating the power of our network we have put forward great candidates with technical skills that would never have surfaced without this proactive, solutions-based approach

Access to funding for emerging women entrepreneurs can be scarce. How can we fix this? Where can they go?

There has been tremendous progress in the last year with new funds that have been developed. ie, StandUp Ventures and BDC, specifically to fund female entrepreneurs in Canada. This is in addition of course to the government doing its part.

There are also incredible programs like SheEO, the accelerator funds at the DMZ and other programs like NEXTCanada and Communitech actively seeking to advance funding opportunities for women. We are no longer in the position to say it’s scarce.

Where I do see an opportunity is to focus on creating network and access to large venture capital and private equity to late-stage ventures with one female founder. There is still great opportunity here to create capacity and access in this space.

What women-centric entrepreneurship programs or STEM opportunities are available in Canada? How can those in remote communities access them?

One of our current initiatives through our STEM committee is building a resource map to be able to provide better access and awareness of multiple incredible programs.

Canada Learning Code is one example of a successful government-backed and community-championed initiative for many Canadians learning to code. I fundamentally believe that coding should become part of the mandated curriculum, given that is the universal language of the future.

I am hopeful that with many groups advocating for this change and companies like Google doing great work in STEM education and access, our future youth will know and understand how to code and to create technical solutions to solve our world’s greatest problems.