Atlantic Canada’s Leading Resource for Women Entrepreneurs Since 1992, located at the RBC Centre for Women in Business, MSVU.

Message from Tanya Priske, Executive Director

November 2017



In 2003, my life changed forever.  A rapid decision to move back to Pictou County resulted in an unforeseen opportunity for me: To work exclusively with women business owners in Northeastern Nova Scotia on behalf of the Centre for Women in Business.   

I spent the next four years travelling from the New Brunswick border to the Canso Causeway, visiting the homes and businesses of women entrepreneurs to talk about their challenges and opportunities. 

Sometimes, it was a simple conversation over a cup of tea.  Many worked in isolation, and just needed to download on someone other than family.  I created bonds with many of my clients that still exist today.

Fast forward to 2017.  The Centre has seen many changes in my 14 years. With the exception of Gordia Macdonald and I, the Centre team has completely changed.   Our new home, the RBC Centre for Women in Business, in the Margaret Norrie McCain Centre, places us in the heart of the university campus.  

The Centre has been recognized nationally for awards around inclusion and diversity.  Our membership has tripled.  But our goal remains the same: To help with the growth of women-owned businesses!

The increase in the presence of women in the Nova Scotia labour market is one of the most significant events to have occurred in this province over the last four decades.  In fact, the number of women employed in Nova Scotia has increased from just under 98,000 in January 1976 (38% of total employment) to just under 213,000 in August 2012 (52% of total employment).

Similarly, the increase in the number of self-employed women in Nova Scotia has been significant over the past four decades.  In January 1976, approximately 8,800 women were self-employed in the province; representing about 29% of total self-employment.  According to Statistics Canada, in 2011 approximately 10% of employed women in Nova Scotia were self-employed or just over 21,300.  This was just below the national of 12%.  Although the number of self-employed women had more than doubled, self-employed men increased almost as quickly.

The concerning thing is that, although we have increased the number of women- owned businesses in this province substantially, women entrepreneurs still do not typically make as much money as male entrepreneurs. Yes, the gap appears to be closing, but what can we do to help?

Historically, the average of majority women-owned businesses are concentrated in the retail and service sectors.  Those sectors tend to be less likely to engage in international trade.  Increasingly, the Centre is engaging with our clients to identify opportunities to build their markets domestically and globally.  Over the last decade, I have witnessed e-commerce playing a significant difference in the way we sell products.  Many clients now sell their services online, especially with the advancements made in technology. 

Within the last 10 years, we have learned about the benefits of inclusive procurement.  Corporate social responsibility goes beyond making a donation to a women’s group or checking off a box.   Status of Women Canada recently released a report, A Business Case for Supplier Diversity in Canada.   Supplier diversity programs offer women-owned enterprises the opportunity to grow through access to new or expanding supply chains.  SMEs that are owned by women add value to large organizations and the economy by creating mutually beneficial relationships.   This has been a game changer for hundreds of women-owned businesses in Canada, and continues to be a focus of the Centre. We are here to help Atlantic Canadian companies understand the benefits.

Seven of the 249 companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) main index are led by women: That is less than 3%!   Canada’s biggest banks have never had a female CEO.  At a recent breakfast, Deborah Gillis, CEO of Catalyst, the leading non-profit organization with a mission to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion, told us how they are raising awareness of how inclusion benefits modern, global businesses.  And while we perceive changes are happening, we only have to look out our backdoor:  Of 11 MPs in Nova Scotia, only one is a woman; of 51 Nova Scotia MLAs, 17 are women; 2 out of 16 HRM councilors are women. 

Ladies: We need to step up our game in order to have a larger, collective voice for women, and a say in how our cities, province and country are run!  And we know a collective voice counts: Take, for example, the recent proposed federal tax changes.

Six years ago, the Centre was approached to help launch a chapter of the Women President’s Organization (WPO).  WPO is the ultimate affiliation for successful women entrepreneurs of privately held multi-million companies.  At that time, we really weren’t quite sure how many women-owned businesses in this region would qualify.  Today, we proudly state there are four chapters in Atlantic Canada representing over 50 companies and more chapters to come.   These women are proven successes: They accelerate business growth and provide economic security to their communities.

And although I rant about further inclusion of women on boards, in politics, at the boardroom tables and as CEOs of large corporations, I also defer to the WPO women who have led the way in their own businesses.  Work silos should be torn down, and we are getting there.  I just want it to be in my lifetime!

As I was writing this, I asked Gordia Macdonald what were the most memorable changes she has witnessed over the last 14 years. 

Her response: “Watching the growth of those businesses and their successes.”

Our roles were in rural Nova Scotia; our goal was to meet with every women business owner. I believe we were successful in that, but perhaps it is time we shook the trees to ensure every women business owner in our province has the tools and skills she needs to move her business forward.  It is time for the Province of Nova Scotia to recognize we mean business and are here to help.  What do you need?

Don't sit on the sidelines contemplating your next move: Connect with us and we can help you build a smart and personally tailored strategy to achieve your business goals.

This year we turn 25!  The past six months have been a journey for the team as we reflected on who we are, and strategized on who we want to be.  How do we continue to grow and succeed?  How do we reach more women with the resources they need, now, and as they evolve as business leaders? 

During those conversations, one thing became clear: We are a voice for women entrepreneurs! WE OWN OUR POWER!

As the organization for women entrepreneurs at any stage of business, we understand how your business changes with growth.  Heck, we're living proof: Most of us are business owners, and we work with bad ass women business owners every day!  So while we might hug you coming in the door, you'll eventually get a firm push back out as we challenge you to, 'Go and make it happen!' 

To quote Oprah: “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.”

There is no time like the present, so get out there: Set your goal. Build your strategy. This is your  moment to tell your story and take on the world! We'll be with you every step of the way.

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