Even though women make up close to 60% of University graduates in Canada, less than 30% of graduates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) are female.
WRITTEN BY: N'ORA KALB
At Innovate Niagara, we work with entrepreneurs who have new innovations that they want to commercialize. They are somewhere along the continuum of having an idea for some new product, process or service that meets a need; identifying who will buy it; improving the product; and what to do next to sell it and scale up. What I have noticed consistently is that most of the people that come to see us are men. In fact, over 80% of them are men. This means that new ideas to solve problems are driven by men. Why? There are actually a lot of women entrepreneurs. Speaking with my colleagues who support traditional Main Street entrepreneurs, there are at least as many women founders as men. The problem is, there are not a lot of women in tech, so it naturally follows that there would not be a lot of women tech company founders. Even though women make up close to 60% of University graduates in Canada, less than 30% of graduates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) are female. So, following that trend, if you break down women founders in the innovation space, they may make up 50% in Food and Beverage industries but when you get to Fintech, Cleantech and Information, Communications and Technology industries, that number is less than 25%.
What can we do about it? First, start young. Get girls interested in pursuing science and computers. More and more K-12 schools are emphasizing girls in STEM and Girls Coding programs. Women mentoring girls breaks down the men-only stereotypes for STEM jobs. Once we have women interested early they can follow that interest in their post-secondary program choices. They then go into the workforce and continue learning and growing their expertise. That’s when they are able to solve real problems through tech and some are ready to pursue that passion as entrepreneurs.
For growing and scaling those innovations, there are programs which are now recognizing that we need to give women more power in the tech space. The BDC Capital Women in Technology Fund is a new initiative that is the largest venture capital fund in North America dedicated solely to investing in early stage Canadian women led technology companies across sectors. Further proof that giving women the opportunity will improve the numbers: Communitech in Waterloo runs “Fierce Founders,” an accelerator program for women founders. Three years ago, when the program started, the percentage of women tech entrepreneurs were 9%. Now it’s 33%.
I am super excited to see how our client base will change over the next few years. With more diversity in the founders of companies, I think we will see unique solutions to problems which are only possible when viewed from a different perspective.
N’ora is the Director of Operations at Innovate Niagara, a not-for-profit private corporation which connects innovators to the people and programs required to bring their innovations to market through a suite of in-house programs, resource partners, and network of incubation facilities. N’ora runs the operations of the company and constantly looks for new ways to bring valuable services to innovative entrepreneurs that will give them a huge boost to getting their businesses off the ground, or to that next level.
Twitter @norakalb / @InnovateNiagara
This article originally appeared in The Business Link Niagara.