accelerator : Female Founders & Funders: Lindy Ledohowski on the Impact of Women & Girls in the Workplace
International Women’s Week 2021 has officially begun! Each year this week grows + becomes more powerful, all thanks to the champion leaders in our community. There is no shortage of IWW2021 events to attend this week, just take a look at the calendar over at investottawa.com to get a snapshot of what’s happening this week and how you can participate!
A little while ago we sat down (yea, in-person.. those were the days) with L-SPARK alum + CEO of EssayJack, Lindy Ledohowski. The interview with Lindy still rings true, and in honour of IWW2021 we thought we’d take a look back at her valuable insights.
Let’s dive in!
Which Canadian women entrepreneur(s) or women business owner(s) inspires you most?
Arlene Dickinson. I find her to be inspiring, because her path hasn’t been an easy one. An immigrant. A young mother. A working mom. She’s not had a simple or straightforward path to financial or professional success, and I find that inspiring. Moreover, I also find that her public persona is quite positive. She gives back. She supports others. She has causes that matter to her. All of that makes her someone I look up to.
How does empowering and investing in women entrepreneurs benefit communities & society?
Again and again studies show that the impact of women and girls in the workplace yields overall benefits. Whether it involves empowering women and girls through education or supporting them as business owners to encouraging their participation on Boards and in politics, by nearly every metric out there these initiatives bring about demonstrable benefits.
For me, I have dedicated my life to working on issues around diversity, and philosophically I believe that the more multiplicity we have – the more diverse voices – the better any context will be.
I don’t believe in single stories, single ways of doing things, single narratives, single approaches, or singular business styles, and so if we can get more women and girls building businesses, participating in founding companies, being funded, and providing funding, then we increase the kind of voices that will bubble to the surface and be heard.
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?
One quick way is the ease with which funding can be allocated for women lead or women run businesses. Often with any business there is simply not enough time in the day to ignore the business and begin filling out forms and documents to secure financing.
If you add to that that many women who run businesses also still do the majority of housework or childcare, then you see how difficult it is to find time to sit down and fill out a bunch of paperwork to secure grants.
If there were a simple, straightforward way to submit a video request for financing, and have that be enough… then I think that could go a long way!
What’s your advice for women looking to start a business, and do not necessarily know where to begin?
Find a mentor. Now. This doesn’t have to be a female mentor, but it can help.
Find a woman in your industry who seems to know what she’s doing and ask her for help. Ask her for insights. Ask her for guidance. In my experience, most women out there are only too happy to lend a helping hand. Most of us want to see others succeed.
Women-owned biz are growing fast. What systems are being created to help them scale up?
One of the greatest ways that contemporary businesses can scale up, which can help women-owned businesses, is simply technology.
For those of us in tech industries, the third-party, cloud-hosted business solutions and the mobile technologies that allow us to continue to work wherever we might have to be, we can suddenly scale a business in ways that we couldn’t consider doing as recently as 5 to 10 years ago.
Diversity Matters. What can we do to get more women on boards or for women to gain more leadership roles?
This is something I’m passionate about. I’ve served on the Board of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights since 2011, and I am proud to say that this board leans almost too far in its gender representation. We’re almost all women! But one thing that can help is having easy and vetted ways for corporate boards to find qualified women.
I’m a member of the ICD, and it’s a great organization, but often I am notified of volunteer board positions rather than lucrative private board positions. But I think until we get more and more women in private board rooms we won’t see the kind of diversity that really matters.
Access to funding for emerging women entrepreneurs can be scarce. How can we fix this? Where can they go?
When you find out…tell me! Ha ha! This is a very tough question to answer. As an emerging entrepreneur, I am always torn between the corporate needs to increase the non-dilutive funding for our company and the running of the company day-to-day.
If I spend too much time seeking sources of funding, then I’m not running the business. If I spend too much time running the business, I may not have the cashflow reserves to scale quickly.
The thing with being an entrepreneur is the things move very very quickly. Access to funding and applying for funding needs to be quick and easy. How to make that happen? I’m not sure.
What women-centric entrepreneurship programs or STEM opportunities are available in Canada? How can those in remote communities access them?
One thing that I find funny is that my journey as an entrepreneur wasn’t through a business school and it wasn’t through STEM. I have a PhD in English. I spent my life in classrooms teaching literature and writing. Yet I find myself running a technology company.
Programs, accelerators, and schooling can certainly be one way to become an entrepreneur, but really the only way to become a successful entrepreneur is to jump in with both feet. Learn quickly. Make as few mistakes as possible. And go forward. And that can happen no matter where you are – in a big city, in a remote community, or in another country!