Episode #19: Janice McDonald, President of The Beacon Agency and co-author of two groundbreaking studies on women entrepreneurs in Canada
Entrepreneurship is hard.
That’s a given but what most people don’t realize, is just how much harder it can be for a woman than a man because men don’t face as many hurdles in their road to success. Indigenous and other women of colour have many more hurdles to clear and its long past time to be talking about these problems openly.
In this episode, Janice McDonald and I get into the nitty gritty of what makes this conversation so difficult, what many incubators, accelerators, financial institutions and investors in Canada haven’t yet figured out about serving their female clients, and how getting all of this right will help everyone – not just women, but the entire Canadian economy. This is not a women’s problem. It’s a global problem and it’s going to take all of us to fix it.
I love this conversation because it focuses on Canadian women entrepreneurs and what they really want and need. Many accelerator programs these days are focusing on what they think women lack. Instead, they should try recognizing the unconscious bias that makes accessing support services difficult for women.
Janice McDonald is President and founder of The Beacon Agency, a boutique advisory firm working with innovative brands to make the good they do count. It offers customized breakthrough insights in entrepreneurship, business strategy and leadership training. She also is an Advisor for Cornell Queens EMBA program and works with international executives on New Venture/Management Consulting Projects and she is an advisor for Sprott School of Business Carleton University.
She is the co-author of two national studies on women as entrepreneurs in Canada:
- A Force to Reckon With – Women, Entrepreneurship and Risk (2016), which debunks the myth that women are risk averse and;
- Everywhere, Every Day, Innovating – Women Entrepreneurs and Innovation (2018), examining how and where women are innovating in Canada.
Both were conducted in partnership with Carleton University and BMO, and both uncovered systematic unconscious bias, and additional challenges women face in running their businesses that men simply don’t face.
I don’t think the issues creating the problems in incubators and accelerators are intentional. But what I know is that magic happens when you’ve got an interesting, diverse group of people working on the problems…This isn’t to say “poor women entrepreneurs”. It’s to say yes – entrepreneurship is hard. Full stop. But women face additional challenges that make accessing capital [for instance] that much harder.
Janice is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, and a sought-after speaker, advisor and leadership expert. She has Leadership training from Harvard and INSEAD and she was appointed to Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard Kennedy School. WXN recognized Janice as Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and she was inducted into the WXN Hall of Fame. Her latest start up is This Space Works – an organization that finds fabulous work spaces in several Ontario cities and makes them available by the hour or by the day.
What you’ll learn from Janice in this episode:
- That the idea of women being risk-averse isn’t true. Instead, we tend to be “risk rational”. Janice explains what she means by that
- How the typical shortcut definition of innovation equalling tech (and vice versa) is problematic for female entrepreneurs, 90% of whom run service based businesses that don’t fit the tech/innovation definition
- How the definition problem above disqualifies many women-led businesses from resources available at business incubators and accelerators offering services to innovators in Canada
- The importance of not treating female entrepreneurs as one big homogeneous group. We have many different reasons for starting our businesses, and face varying challenges along our journeys that can’t all be placed under one umbrella
- Why women might self-select out of accelerator programs because they don’t feel like it’s a place for them
- How unconscious bias still affects women pitching for investment, and looking for loans from financial institutions and what needs to change in both areas
- How letting the data speak plays a role in busting myths about female entrepreneurship (ie. loan payback rates by female borrowers)
- What was learned by studying indigenous female entrepreneurs in Canada separately and how important it is for the barriers they face to be better understood, and eliminated
Janice is ambitious for:
Women in Communications and Technology
This group has a new program called “Her Words, Her Wisdom” where users can upload a short video, tips, tricks or words of wisdom to share with the community of women using the site, creating a content resource by women for women.
Other Links Mentioned in This Episode:
Harvard Business Review Article: “Male and Female Entrepreneurs Get Asked Different Questions by VCs — and It Affects How Much Funding They Get”