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Tech-powered progress: closing the entrepreneurial gender gap

There’s an age-old fact that women entrepreneurs face a harder time growing their business than male counterparts due to several societal, systemic and financial barriers. There’s no doubt that these barriers still exist, but the last few years have seen a shift. According to research from  Global Entrepreneurship Monitor , the extent of women’s entrepreneurship activities — particularly over the last few crisis-prone years — has been rapidly evolving and diversifying despite all odds. In fact, their research shows that one in three high-growth, innovation-oriented entrepreneurs are women.

Technology, in part, is helping to flip the narrative. Notable challenges such as access to capital and networks, lack of quality training and education, overcoming gender stereotypes and so on, are all being dismantled as more women leverage the power of technology to grow and scale.

To better understand how women are breaking through existing barriers to success, we chatted with alumna from the  EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™  program who have not only designed, built and developed successful companies by embracing technology — but have also pursued purpose well beyond profits to create a better working world for women following in their footsteps. Here are the significant benefits technology has provided to help bridge the gender entrepreneurial divide and accelerate business models.

Democratize access to global consumers  

With the introduction of e-commerce capabilities, online platforms have democratized access to global markets, allowing women entrepreneurs to reach an extensive customer base and scale their businesses faster, without the need for substantial up-front investment in physical stores. And now with the introduction of AI capabilities, companies can optimize and elevate their e-commerce platform for customers — easily customizing the experience.

Tech-powered progress: closing the entrepreneurial gender gap 
Image Courtesy: canva

For Karen Danudjaja, the Co-Founder and CEO of Blume, 85% of her business was initially food service, which was quickly disrupted when the pandemic struck. However, using online education tools, she was able to learn how to quickly pivot the business to take on a 50/50 wholesale and e-commerce split — accessing a whole new direct-to-consumer market and furthering Blume’s ability to scale distribution.

Provide cost-effective digital marketing tools 

There are many free or low-cost tools that provide support with search engine optimization, email marketing, content creation and social media advertising, that help to empower entrepreneurs to market their businesses effectively and affordably, leveling the playing field with larger corporations.

Hillberg & Berk, a Canadian, women-owned jewelry company celebrated for crafting high-quality and stylish pieces, has harnessed the power of their e-commerce and social media platforms to expand and scale the business globally. Technology also plays a pivotal role in their efforts to raise awareness for causes dedicated to celebrating and uplifting women — bringing them closer to their consumer.

With the goal to engage meaningfully with causes they believe in, they’ve been championing International Women’s Day for over a decade. For the second year, Hillberg & Berk launched its #GetExplicit campaign, addressing women’s issues that are often brushed under the rug. From topics like pelvic and mental health to challenges women in professional sports experience, the initiative creates a valuable platform to shed light on these realities affecting numerous women.

“Supporting women’s success is in our company’s DNA,” shares Hillberg & Berk Founder and CEO, Mielke. “Our digital platform gives us a chance to voice genuine, powerful stories that echo our brand’s authenticity, all while spotlighting other women entrepreneurs and their companies.”

Image Courtesy: canva

Empower workplace flexibility 

Technology can also allow for greater flexible working arrangements that improve work-life balance, empowering women to make schedules that fit within their day-to-day lives. Project management tools and video conferencing software, for example, allow women entrepreneurs to manage team collaboration remotely, providing flexibility to help balance work and personal commitments.

Offer alternative avenues for funding  

There are a number of tech-enabled avenues that present a promising shift towards levelling the playing field for women entrepreneurs seeking funding. Crowdfunding, for example — including websites like KickStarter and CircleUp — allow entrepreneurs to directly appeal to the public to fund their ideas. This can be beneficial for women entrepreneurs as it bypasses traditional gatekeepers of capital, and also allows them to leverage their networks for support.

Additionally, online lending platforms often use different assessment criteria compared to traditional banks, focusing on business performance and potential rather than just credit history.

Enable mentoring and collaboration 

The introduction of social media and professional networking sites has enabled women to connect with and learn from successful entrepreneurs, mentors and potential collaborators across the globe. It also allows alumna in the Winning Women program connect across industries and geographies.

Bobbie Racette, Founder and CEO of Virtual Gurus and member of the program’s  class of 2022 , echoed that sharing, “whether through access to advisors and resources, executive education or introductions to the EY global entrepreneurial ecosystem, the Winning Women program is helping women entrepreneurs build stronger organizations, challenge perspectives and break down barriers to success.”

Similarly, Virtual Gurus is helping to foster connection and opportunity between businesses and traditionally underrepresented communities who may have faced barriers to employment. The company leverages proprietary technology to match organizations with highly skilled remote assistants from Canada and the US to perform an array of services.

The successful businesses that these women have been able to launch and build are a testament to technology’s ability to unlock novel opportunities for innovation, growth and collaboration. Not only are these Canadian trailblazers stepping up to fill important gaps in the market and creating jobs that bolster Canada’s economy, but they’re also paying it forward by creating value for their peers, and inspiring future generations to take bigger strides towards closing the entrepreneurial gender gap.


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