July 2011

The editorial theme for this issue of the OSBR is Women Entrepreneurs. In this issue, we examine the reasons for the relative lack of women founders and leaders in technology businesses. Our authors discuss the entrepreneurial challenges that are unique to women and what changes may be implemented to tip the balance and increase the number of women entrepreneurs.

As our authors report, women make up approximately five percent of entrepreneurs in the technology industry. While critics may wonder whether a goal of 50% women entrepreneurs is achievable in the near future, the current disparity leaves few to argue that the numbers should be much, much higher. However, it is not enough to desire change; we must first know how to act and then we must do so.

In this issue, all of the authors are women and they collectively offer a variety of perspectives: entrepreneur, leader, executive, board member, academic, researcher, public sector advisor, and technology expert, among others. Through their research and experience, they shed light on the reasons for the current lack of women entrepreneurs, describe the benefits of having more women entrepreneurs and leaders, highlight what is currently being done to support and encourage women to undertake entrepreneurial and leadership roles, and recommend further specific actions that can be taken by individuals, organizations, and our society in general. We hope their insights will be thought-provoking in the short-term, action-inspiring in the medium-term, and otherwise irrelevant in the long-term, once this inequality has been addressed.

Tess Jewell, a PhD student at York University and Ryerson University, highlights the social and environmental factors that influence women's career choices. By considering recent literature into women's participation in technology, entrepreneurship, and social reproduction, she identifies the biases and stereotypes that create barriers to women's progress in entrepreneurship and beyond, and she offers recommendations to organizations and educational institutions to help women overcome these biases.

Roseann O'Reilly Runte, President and Vice-Chancellor of Carleton University, emphasizes the importance of women's participation in entrepreneurial activities and their impact on regional economic development. She examines proposed reasons for the lack of women's participation and offers solutions to cultivate a more supportive environment that will celebrate and reward the successes of men and women equally, encourage more women to participate in leadership roles, and increase the likelihood of their success.

Joanne McGrath Cohoon, Associate Professor at the University of Virginia and Senior Research Scientist at the National Center for Women & IT (NCWIT), reviews the existing literature relating to gender and the dominant traits of successful high-tech entrepreneurs. She then describes research she undertook with her colleagues to determine which traits are common to large majorities of successful founders and whether there are any gender differences that might contribute to the unequal gender composition of successful founders.

Janice Singer and Deborah Dexter, Industrial Technology Advisors for the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), introduce Lead to Win for Women, a new program created in Canada’s Capital Region to dramatically increase the number of women-founded businesses and to help existing businesses grow substantially. They describe some existing programs to help women entrepreneurs and outline the guiding principles and key features of their new program.

Ruth Bastedo, President of Experience Media Group Inc. and the co-designer of Rotman's Next Steps program for women entrepreneurs, argues that the goal should be to increase the number of women in meaningful leadership positions on startup teams. She describes the challenges she has faced as a woman entrepreneur and shares insights gained working with programs and initiatives to support other women entrepreneurs.

Cate Huston, Software Engineer at Google, reminds us that not all women in the technology sector aspire to be entrepreneurs. She describes her own reasons for not wanting to be entrepreneur, despite frequent encouragement from her network to become one. While she supports initiatives to encourage more women to become entrepreneurs, she argues that we should also encourage and celebrate less overt forms of leadership, particularly those demonstrated through recognizing and filling gaps.

We encourage readers to share articles of interest with their colleagues and to provide their comments either online or directly to the authors. I would also like to extend an invitation to interested readers who may wish to write a column in July, either reviewing the current issue, elaborating on a topic from one of the articles, or sharing related insights.

For the upcoming August issue, we offer a rare unthemed issue and we welcome general submissions on the topic of open source business or the growth of early-stage technology companies. This is a great opportunity to publish your insights without having to wait for a relevant issue theme. Please contact me immediately if you are interested in submitting an article for the August issue.

Chris McPhee


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