It’s proven time and again that women face unique challenges when it comes to business. From the gender wage gap to a historical lack of professional support networks, hurdles to professional success can be extra daunting.
Even though on paper, Canada is one of the best places for women to live, workplace gender disparities and stigmas remain.
Women in Canada make up roughly 48% of the workforce, but only about 4% in skilled trades. There are fewer female entrepreneurs and small business owners than males in Canada, although there is evidence that this is changing.
Women also have been disproportionately affected by recovered labour hours and re-integration into the workforce due to COVID-19. Encouragingly enough, this also seems to be evolving and changing for the better.
So much media is American-centred, and we at Invoice2go, a Bill.com company, want to highlight female business networks specifically in Canada. We place a high value on spaces to help women grow and overcome the unique hurdles they face.
To celebrate our new community and women in business, we want to share a wealth of useful information. These 10 empowering Canada-based communities highlight the talents of women in various industries. They also create space for women to share resources, amplify BIPOC voices, and generally express female awesomeness. Let’s dive in:
1. The Female Founders Network
In each podcast episode, hosts Nat Brown and Sylvie Hall interview an entrepreneur, small business owner, or industry leader. They strive to help share their story and offer valuable tips and tricks to thrive in business.
The Female Founders Network is a growing Facebook community and a great place to meet with like-minded women and learn easily absorbable and attainable business advice. Membership gives access to publication privileges, connections, and mentorship with women all over the world in business.
These days are strange and continually changing, but communities like these mentioned above certainly illuminate the lightning skills and adaptability of Canadian women of all backgrounds.
Ellevate is an extensive networking community, with a modestly priced annual membership. Its reach goes far, spanning from Canadian offices to chapters in the US, the UAE, Great Britain, India, and Brazil.
Memberships transcend borders if you’re thinking of networking internationally. Still, since COVID-19 has forced organizations to rethink how they operate and connect, perks now include virtual mentoring with like-minded businesswomen.
Ellevate hosts a weekly podcast covering a vast array of relevant topics alongside a new guest for every show. Female CEOs, reporters, small business owners, historians, and authors are just a few of the invitees.
Each podcast offers insight into gender roles in the context of the modern business world. It also focuses on changes due to technological developments and COVID-19 workplace transitions.
3. Alberta Women Entrepreneurs
Living in this western province and want to start a business? For over twenty years, AWE has provided resources, networks, loans, and tools for female entrepreneurs.
Ranging from free online events and webinars to more costly in-depth workshops, AWE focuses on helping women outline business plans, adapt to ever-changing technologies, and expand their networks.
Financial support opportunities are also available, including a COVID-19 specific recovery fund for established businesses struggling with short-term stability. You can meet with an AWE advisor, remotely and at no cost, to discuss business plans, learn adaptive skills, and gain access to other resources.
AWE also has workshops designed towards promoting and supporting Indigenous women-centred businesses in Alberta. They offer Indigenous specific-peer-mentoring, opportunities for business plan reviews, and a social networking system.
4. Canadian Small Business Women
Similar to AWE, Canadian Small Business Women offers a variety of events, workshops, webinars, and resources to help Canadian women learn how to get their small businesses off the ground.
Launched by Dwania Peele, a Jamaican-born woman who emigrated to Toronto, CSBW provides sound advice from experienced women. They also share links to excellent business startup resources. Options for differing levels of intensity and thoroughness apply to the various mentoring packages.
CSBW also offers paid advertising. Paying for ad space with CSBW allows you to list your business in their newsletter. It also gives you periodic social media promotion, webinars mentions, and placement in their popular online directory. This exposure is likely the most significant advantage of CSBW.
Register for further consultations on your already-established business, access online events, blogs, and workshops to take your business to the next level.
5. Indigenous Women’s Business Network
This business network, based out of British Columbia, offers free memberships to Indigenous women looking to start their own business or expand their knowledge and network.
Indigenous women are some of the most marginalized people in Canada yet are starting businesses at twice the rate of non-Aboriginal Canadian women. Resources geared explicitly towards them are invaluable. IWBN offers workshops, webinars and the like for budding Indigenous women in Vancouver, BC.
On their website, you can find guides to free, beneficial resources from an organization that distributes loans and grants specifically to Indigenous businesswomen. You can also discover networking groups, skill shares, other social communities.
6. Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada
A featured partner of the above-mentioned Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, WEOC works mainly with pre-established female entrepreneurial support organizations.
They are also involved with provincial and national business networks, international networks, capital resources, and other governmental women’s initiatives. Their reach is extensive and continually focused on expansion and innovation.
Organizations affiliated with WEOC also include the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Prince Edward Island Business Women’s Association, Women Entrepreneurs Saskatchewan, and other groups spanning across Canada. To learn more, check out the list here.
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, WEOC is for established businesses looking to climb to the next level. However, even if you’re starting from scratch, you can subscribe to their monthly newsletter for guidance on networking and improving other valuable skills. It also highlights what it’s like to run a business in the continually evolving and uncertain COVID-19 world.
7. Women’s Art Association of Canada
Starting as an informal club in 1887, WAAC has always aimed to promote an interest in the arts and showcase female talent. Located in a historic building in Toronto, annual memberships are reasonably priced. Discounts are available to students and women living outside of the Greater Toronto Area.
A WAAC membership offers reduced rates for gallery and studio rental spaces. It also includes invitations to events and openings, access to a printing press, an extensive library, discounts at local art stores, and networking with fellow artists and art lovers.
WAAC also offers scholarships to high school students and post-secondary education students in Ontario. These include seven leading art institutions in Ontario, including OCADU, the Royal Conservatory, and the National Ballet School.
Lectures held at the association are generally open to the public and feature both members and outside individuals and groups.
8. Canadian Women In Food
The food and service industries have been male-dominated for years. To make a voice for yourself as a woman in restaurants can be tricky. However, evidence and groups such as the new Dandelion Initiative in Toronto prove that things are changing for the better.
CWF aims to foster a sense of belonging amongst immensely talented females in the food industry. This national organization offers an affordable membership and a sense of belonging to a community that revolves around a support system of other women in foodservice.
Even though events are on hold due to COVID 19, membership provides access to a bi-monthly newsletter with tips for enhancing your business. They also share resources to connect with other industry folk, discounts on epic food tasting events, guest lectures, trade shows, and more.
Members also can apply for space in The Shop, a means of advertising for companies with direct selling abilities. Examples of types of companies affiliated with CWIF include craft beer, vegan snacks, and artisanal cupcakes – and the list is growing. Delicious.
9. Black Women Film! Canada
Run by and for Black women, BWF! is an incredible collective of filmmakers in Toronto that partners with the Ontario Arts Council, the National Film Board, and the Toronto International Film Festival.
BWF! offers genuinely personal workshops to help emerging and established Black filmmakers hone their skills and network. Simultaneously, they promote and amplify the voices of Black film and new media artists across Canada.
Since 2016, BWF! has offered workshops to provide filmmakers with social networking opportunities, mentorship, chances to meet with funders. They continually share invaluable insight and are closely connected with several of the other organizations on this list.
BWF! ran a summer film camp for Black female teens in 2019 that provided leadership and guidance from BWF! alumni to get talented Black teens' first short films off the ground.
Furthermore, any Black female who has created a professionally presented film or new media project can apply for a fully subsidized TIFF pass through BWF! This opportunity to make connections and the potential for exposure is massive!
10. Canadian Construction Women
This Vancouver-based organization has been providing support to women in construction since the early ’80s. CCW thrives on its core goal of retaining talented women in a male-dominated industry. The percentages of women in the trades have fluctuated over the years, which is why groups like CCW are crucial.
CWW gives members access to a vast member directory that is key for networking and exposure, as well as monthly events and professional affiliation.
Committee members volunteer their time to provide support, mentoring, and community involvement for women in construction. They uphold dedication to increasing women’s representation in the industry.
Students enrolled in any trades, or construction-related credential program can become members of CCW for free. Students also can apply for one of four $1000.00 bursaries to assist with future career goals.
With the way things are progressing, there will be more new ways of networking and meeting like-minded women in Canada that will continue to grow. It’s never a bad idea to expand your list of resources – especially if Canadian women run it!