Catherine Elliott Women own nearly half of the small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Canada but continue to be under-represented in senior positions in the private sector.

As International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, draws near, one of uOttawa’s leading researchers on women entrepreneurs says there is some cause for celebration when it comes to women in the business world. However, she feels that Canada still has some ways to go before achieving gender equality.

Catherine Elliott, assistant professor at the Telfer School of Management, says the proportion of women who own SMEs has remained constant at around 47% for the past decade. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of women who became self-employed grew by 23%, compared to a 14% increase among men. Elliot says that these statistics point to both good and bad news for women: the numbers indicate that plenty of women are able to start up new ventures, but that there are limitations on how big such businesses can grow.

Elliott and her colleague Professor Barbara Orser, vice-dean of the Telfer School of Management, are writing a book to be published by Stanford University Press in 2015 that looks at entrepreneurial feminists – women who start businesses partly to empower other women. Orser spearheaded the Taskforce for Women’s Enterprise Growth, a non-partisan consortium formed in 2009 to develop a blueprint for promoting women-owned businesses. One recommendation that emerged was to expand the network of women-focused enterprise centres across Canada in order to provide specialized training and support for entrepreneurs.

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