From Arlene: Babies And Biases - Both Need Changing

From Arlene: Babies And Biases - Both Need Changing

Leadership | Posted by - February 15, 2018 at 12:30 am

Not long ago, I sat down with a promising young entrepreneur. She was the complete package: Smart, confident, creative and thoughtful. She's building a really interesting business. Most important of all, this woman has shown an ability to learn from her setbacks - and a determination to push her company forward to the next stage of growth. She was hoping I would invest.

At one point, she leaned in as if to confess a secret. She hesitated. I could tell she was worried about how I would react.

"I just want you to know… I'm pregnant," she said.

I smiled and congratulated her. At the same time, I couldn't help but think about the stigma that would lead this impressive woman to feel such anxiety about my reaction. 

I mean… I'm a woman. I started a business while raising four kids. I am as friendly and as understanding an audience as she could hope to find. And yet she was still uneasy - and fearful that I might question her drive and commitment. Imagine how she would have felt in a room full of men.

It's never easy to raise money as an entrepreneur, and it's especially difficult if you're a woman. That is just a fact. Just this week, yet another new report reached a familiar and maddening conclusion. It found that because we as a country put a high priority on funding innovation in the male-dominated tech sector, female entrepreneurs are losing out - even though they lead 50 per cent of all new businesses.

The Bank of Montreal tells us that female entrepreneurs create more jobs than male entrepreneurs. What's more, female-led businesses have higher survival rates than those led by men. But because governments and venture capital firms have such a narrow definition of "innovation," the bulk of the available funding still goes to businesses led by men.

I know this from my own experience over the years. It's one of the main reasons I recently became one of very few women to create and manage a venture capital fund in Canada (District Ventures Capital). I take great pride in having raised close to $35 million. And I look forward to using those resources to support our country's entrepreneurs - women and men. 

We have a lot going for us as a country. But we need to do better at solving the systemic problems that undermine a woman's ability to raise funds for her business. And we need to get rid of the tired notion that women can't raise a family and build a company at the same time. The bias is real and we need to get over it. 

The woman who came in to pitch me that day… I told her that being pregnant in no way diminishes her talents or her prospects. You can be a parent and a leader. A growing family can be a source of support and inspiration.

Besides, there is no perfect time to start or grow a business. A lot of things need to come together. But when you've got the idea and the opportunity and the passion, there is nothing that can - or should - stop you. 

Tags: arlene dickinson, business, dragons den, entrepreneur, family, family business, female entrepreneurs, female leaders

Arlene Dickinson

Arlene Dickinson is one of Canada’s most renowned independent marketing communications entrepreneurs. As CEO of Venture Communications, her creative and strategic approach has turned the company into a powerhouse with a blue chip client list.  She is also the CEO of, a company she founded in 2012 that is dedicated to serving and investing in entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial lifestyle. 

Dickinson is best known to Canadians as one of the venture capitalists on the award-winning CBC series Dragons’ Den, The Big Decision and marketing expert on Recipe to Riches.  She is the author of two books, the number one bestselling book, Persuasion and her most recent best-selling release, All In. 

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