I recently participated in The DMZ Women In Tech Event at Ryerson University. Business owners, investors, and students packed the house to learn how they can help women start, grow, and scale their businesses. In a fireside chat, Paul Parisi, president of PayPal Canada, and I discussed access to financing, income inequality, and underrepresentation of women in tech, while a panel of founders exchanged ideas about investing in diversity and the value of mentorship.
I wanted to share the conversation highlights with our YouInc community because the exchange was honest and empowering - we all need a bit of guidance to open our minds to new possibilities, especially when we feel like we're failing.
Here are my thoughts on dreaming big and finding willpower to achieve what you want in business:
ON DREAMING BIG AND BELIEVING IN YOURSELF:
"You're entrepreneurs. You're going to fail, pivot and ultimately find a way to make it work."
"Dream big. We live in a country where we can do pretty much anything we want to do. Don't be complacent. Get out of your own way."
"We need to stop downgrading ourselves to a tropical storm; we have to be a hurricane."
"Mentorship is about finding knowledge and drawing it out from wherever you can."
"You need to dream the impossible. Adopt fear, courage and the understanding that being uncomfortable is okay."
ON UNIQUE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS:
"Women think differently about business and that's the best part. We're focused on collaboration, empathy and what it takes to build a team, but we can't lose sight of confidence and perseverance."
"At the end of the day it's all about delivering results and business outcomes no matter your gender. Find that iron will inside of you and acknowledge that how you differ from your male counterparts is the best thing about you. Leverage it."
PANEL DISCUSSION OUTCOMES
When asked by the moderator, "If you had one message to give business about helping women entrepreneurs, what would it be?" Karen Lau, co-founder of Furnishr said, "Lead by example," and Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro, founder of My African Corner said, "Support female entrepreneurs." I loved these responses.
ON INVESTING IN DIVERSITY
I believe diversity is not only about gender. The sooner we, as women, can stop comparing ourselves to men in tech or men in business, the better we'll be able to harness the unique skills we each have to contribute:
"The reasons for doing it are clear: it's the right thing to do, and there's a business imperative." - Andrew Graham, CEO and co-founder of Borrowell
"When you talk about diversity and only include women, you do a disservice to people who have fought to be included." - Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro, founder, My African Corner
"Walk across the room and involve women of colour in conversations, decisions, and community." - Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro, founder, My African Corner
THE VALUE OF MENTORSHIP
We all know how important mentorship is, not only for business guidance, but to help clear our minds through especially difficult periods. We need someone we can talk to who understands the highs and lows of the journey:
"Finding business mentors is hard. It's like dating - the pool is small and your options can be limited, but it's all worth it in the end." - Karen Lau
"Why do not enough women have mentors? Because there aren't enough mentors out there." - Karen Lau
Sometimes people ask me, "if I could have done anything differently in my career, what would I have done?" There's only one thing: I would have dreamt bigger. Then people say, "but look at everything you've done!" And, I say, "look at what else I could have done." So, I leave you with this message for the week and for your everyday thinking: think as big as you can. If that doesn't work, move on, and think big again.