Promoting female entrepreneurship by showcasing successful female entrepreneurs.
Michèle Boisvert, Quebec's Delegate general in France and ambassador of the Inspiring Routes of Québec Women project, loves challenges. And she certainly had them in spades during her career as a journalist at Radio-Canada and La Presse, and then as the first female vice president of public affairs at the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ). She often found herself in an environment where there were few, if any, women. "I studied science, then economics, before moving onto business. Even if I had never thought of starting my own enterprise, I always had to push myself to excel," says the former member of the OSEntreprendre Board of Directors.
Boisvert is very familiar with the obstacles women must overcome in certain fields, such as entrepreneurship, where they are unfortunately underrepresented. The 2018 Quebec Entrepreneurial Index revealed that only 41% of businesses were currently owned by women. "Normally, we should be close to parity to reflect the 50/50 split between the genders in the population. This would benefit everyone: female entrepreneurship helps enrich Quebec society," says Boisvert.
This underrepresentation can be explained by the concerns several women have about this sector. Often described as tough or cut-throat, entrepreneurship apparently corresponds to male values. Fortunately, this perception, obviously false, is often quickly cast aside. "Women tend to say they don't have what it takes to be good businesspeople; they disqualify themselves! Yet, as soon as they dare to take the plunge, they realize that their self-doubts were ill-founded. Women's empathy, ability to listen and altruism are strengths in the business world," explains Boisvert.
The pedal to the metal to catch up
How can this perception of entrepreneurship be overcome? According to Boisvert, it is by celebrating female entrepreneurs who dared to take a risk. "It's a vicious circle. You have to showcase female entrepreneurs from every horizon so that young women can feel empowered and choose to become entrepreneurs themselves. Happily, we have many accomplished female entrepreneurs in Quebec!" says Boisvert. When she was at the CDPQ, she and her team launched Les Cheffes de file, an initiative aimed at increasing the number of female-run enterprises in the province.
It is on account of projects like Inspiring Routes of Québec Women or the OSEntreprendre Challenge that Boisvert is convinced the situation has improved. This catching up has gone much more quickly than was hoped. The 2018 Quebec entrepreneurial index confirms that parity has been attained between male and female business owners. "The younger generations, those aged 25 to 35 years, don't have the same vision of entrepreneurship as they had in the past. As they come of age and take their place in the world, they are slowly imposing their values of equality between the sexes and equal chances. They are good visionaries who are upsetting the established order," says Boisvert.