Chambers of Commerce Busting Stereotypes About Women in BusinessMarch 8, 2019
What do you picture when you hear the phrase, “business leader”? For a long time both the popular image—and the demographic reality—of business has been a sector dominated by men. But that is changing: women lead 50 percent of all new business in Canada as well as partially or wholly own 47 percent of all small- and medium-sized enterprises. Businesses led by women create more jobs and have a higher chance of survival even though they generally tend to be smaller than businesses led by men  The reality is that female business leaders actively contribute to the Canadian economy every day.
Yet women in business persistently face a unique set of challenges: sexism, harassment, ageism, the pay gap, and poor access to capital, to name just a few. And although the pay gap between men and women has narrowed over the past 30 years, it remains a real problem for working women across this country.
We have come a long way, but there is undoubtedly still much work to be done.
As Ontario’s business advocate, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) represents over 60,000 businesses in 135 communities across the province. We are the independent, non-partisan, voice of business with the mission to support economic growth by defending business priorities at Queen’s Park.
The OCC is well aware of the stereotype of a chamber of commerce as an ‘old boys club’. But so much has changed over the past few decades. Contrary to popular belief, we are proud to say our movement is now one led by women: 73 percent of leadership roles in our chamber network are held by women and the OCC’s Board of Directors consists of 50 percent women. These leaders represent a diversity of industries in communities throughout Ontario, from Tillsonburg to Thunder Bay. They are responsible for steering important public policy conversations at both the provincial level and on the ground within their local municipalities, and are tireless advocates for economic prosperity for all Ontarians.
To build a stronger Ontario, it is critical that we continue to advance women in leadership positions. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceForBetter: a call-to-action on building a gender-based world. And we all—policy-makers and the private sector, both—have a responsibility to make that a reality. For the OCC, #BalanceForBetter means finding the right balance between legislative and social solutions to the challenges faced by women in the workplace.
This means that we must continue to improve the alignment between public policy and economic outcomes. Breaking down barriers women face will lead to new economic activity and growth: more female entrepreneurs mean more wealth generation, more women in the skilled trades mean more opportunities to build, and more women in decision-making roles mean more inclusive outcomes.
For the betterment of our province, we need more women in positions of economic and political power.
In the meantime, if you are a woman in business looking to become part of an inclusive and impactful network of leaders and advocates, your local chamber of commerce is the place to start.
 Lawrence, L. 2017. Women entrepreneurs: Think big. BDC. https://www.bdc.ca/en/about/mediaroom/public_statements/pages/women-entrepreneurs-think-big.aspx.
 Statistics Canada. 2012. Labour Force Survey. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/130104/dq130104a-eng.htm.
 Statistics Canada. 2018. Women-owned Enterprises in Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-626-x/11-626-x2018083-eng.htm.
 Beckton, Clare, McDonald, Janice, and Marquis-Bissonnette, Maude. 2018. Everywhere, Every Day Innovating. Women Entrepeneurs and Innovations. BMO for Women.