Article Entrepreneurship

Empowering women entrepreneurs to strengthen and grow Quebec’s businesses and industries

Entrepreneurship Montréal,
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How can we build a stronger entrepreneurial culture in Québec? How do we encourage more youth and women to become entrepreneurs? These are some of the questions that inspired la Caisse to develop a number of entrepreneurship initiatives in recent years. Entrepreneurship is now at the heart of la Caisse’s strategic priorities in Québec. These initiatives are helping to boost entrepreneurial intentions. A discussion with Michèle Boisvert.

La Caisse | Why is entrepreneurship a priority for la Caisse?

Michèle Boisvert | Because entrepreneurs are one of the biggest drivers of the Québec economy. They contribute their ideas, drive, and innovation to it.

That is why we brought together around 40 entrepreneurs from various Québec industries, generations and regions in 2014 to reflect on what we could do to create a stronger entrepreneurial culture. Thanks to these discussions, we could identify priority actions that we have committed to implementing. 

One example is Devenir entrepreneur, an information and inspiration platform that explores multiple advantages and challenges related to an entrepreneur career. This initiative, which was created in partnership with Mouvement Desjardins and National Bank of Canada, seeks to foster a desire among youth to become entrepreneurs.

La Caisse | Do you believe that the initatives implemented by la Caisse and other stakeholders have had an impact on entrepreneurship?

Michèle Boisvert | Yes, absolutely. The numbers clearly demonstrate this. According to the Québec Entrepreneurship Index, entrepreneurial intentions among the general population have increased from 7% to 21% between 2009 and 2017. This is the result of a targeted effort.

Some even more promising data: more than 41% of youth between the ages of 18 and 34 are willing to consider entrepreneurship as a career choice. That’s nearly one in two. It’s really encouraging, because we had a long way to go. In 2009, only 15% thought about becoming entrepreneurs. 

Although these numbers are positive, we must not rest on our laurels. We need to continue stimulating the emergence of new businesses. We also need to support men and women who have already taken the plunge, who have moved from intentions to action, so that this new entrepreneurial wave survives and grows.

La Caisse | During recent months you have visited several Québec regions to present data from the 2017 Québec Entrepreneurship Index. What are some of the main conclusions that emerged from this annual study?

Michèle Boisvert | The 2017 Québec Entrepreneurship Index particularly focused on female entrepreneurship. Historically, fewer women have chosen entrepreneurship than men. However, last year’s study demonstrated that the younger generation is closing the gap.

For example, the study revealed that 42.8% of entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 34 are women, compared to just 34.6% for those aged 55 and over. Furthermore 51.4% of new entrepreneurs in 2017 were women. It’s a trend we are observing among the new generation, and we have to make sure that we support women as more of them become entrepreneurs.

La Caisse | Are there any other interesting elements in the study?

Michèle Boisvert | In my opinion, there are two key points that stand out. For women that want to become entrepreneurs, coming from a family that is already in business is a key data point. It increases the probability that she will own a business in the future by 83%. Having university studies is another key factor that increases the probability that both women and men will become entrepreneurs.

Beyond this, something else stands out: once a woman has decided to start her own business, she is no different than a man in terms of ambition, desire to succeed and willingness to take risks. The point at which she is ready to act is where we can make a difference. We can help her cut through the hesitation she may feel, to enable her to proceed with greater confidence. 

La Caisse | The study reminds us that women tend to put a stronger emphasis on the social impact of their businesses. Yet, entrepreneurship is often characterized as a risk-taking and money-making endeavour. Could we gain something by shifting the dialogue toward entrepreneurial role models that value having a greater social aspect?

Michèle Boisvert | Absolutely. In fact, during the meetings I had with women entrepreneurs across Québec, many of them spoke about the importance of doing business while contributing socially to their communities. This subject speaks loudly to women.

Leveraging and providing more visibility to entrepreneurship role models that identify with these values, that take us beyond the focus on financial success and recognition, would be a good start. This not only stands to benefit women entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurship as a whole.

Ultimately, redefining the idea of success to include social impact would inspire more women and youth to take entrepreneurial action.

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Michèle Boisvert présentant les résultats de l’Indice entrepreneurial québécois 2017 à Saguenay.

Michèle Boisvert presents the results of the 2017 Québec Entrepreneurship Index in Saguenay. In the background, Laure-Gabrielle Chatenet of UX-co, Mélanie Paul of Granules LG and Natasha Tremblay of Centre du bien-être psychologique, three local entrepreneurs who shared their professional experiences.

La Caisse | Does la Caisse plan on playing a role in stimulating entrepreneurship among women in Québec?

Michèle Boisvert | We are always looking for the best ways to have an impact on the Québec economy. Female entrepreneurship is a niche in which we want to play an active role. We are convinced that encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs and supporting them as they grow their businesses will create economic value. Our Stewardship Investing Report presents the ways in which la Caisse is helping to empower women in business, as well as supporting efforts to increase female representation within our organization and in the broader corporate, entrepreneurial, and financial spheres.

WOMEN IN BUSINESS

To learn more about la Caisse’s initiatives to promote more women in business, especially as entrepreneurs, consult our Stewardship Investing Report.

DEVENIR ENTREPRENEUR

To learn more about the Devenir entrepreneur initiative, visit devenirentrepreneur.com.

LA CAISSE’S IMPACT IN QUÉBEC

To learn more about la Caisse’s impact in Québec, visit the Impact of our activities in Québec page.

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