Working Towards Equality for Women Entrepreneurs

Now is the time to grow the women entrepreneurship sector

BY JENNIFER NEUTEL, AXIOM NEWS, SEPTEMBER 15, 2011   

Pamela Chaloult’s first step forward is always looking to enhance women’s opportunities.

She says this is the case in her current work as Managing Director at Renewal and as a consultant, but the roots of her passion to lift women entrepreneurs began years ago. Her first job in the non-profit sector was at Planned Parenthood, which focused on the health of women and girls. She says it became clear that it is an underserved community and fuelled her passion for women’s equity.

“(Women are) multi-taskers we know how to make things work on limited budgets, we’re able to be very creative in our endeavours and I found that with just a little bit of support whether financially or with business acumen and knowledge that women can really excel in the work that they are doing,” she says.

In 2001, and for the first time in Social Venture Network’s history, there was a co-leadership model where Pamela and Deborah Nelson were co-executive directors.

At the time she noticed that business itself is very male-dominated, and glass ceilings still existed for women trying to work their way up. Yet there was also an eagerness and excitement among women in the network wanting to create businesses and organizations to create positive change in the world.

“What I found was in subtle ways and in some not-so-subtle ways the support that was needed by women for women just wasn’t really there,” Pamela tells Axiom News.

“We just started to take the helm,” she says, noting she decided to do what she could at that time to help bring more women into the Social Venture Network. 

“I felt really strongly that there was support and resources available and that when you bring people together, and especially when you bring a group of women together, really important and exciting things can happen,” says Pamela.

Pamela says they changed the dynamic and looked at what was needed to balance gender participation in the network.

She continues to lift up women entrepreneurs at Renewal, a collection of organizations using business and philanthropy tools in support of long-term societal solutions. 

She also serves as vice-president of Renewal2, an investment fund focused on providing investors opportunity to participate in business development as the forefront of social and environmental innovation. 

Pamela says Renewal2 is actively seeking women entrepreneurs in the sectors they focus on within the socially responsible business sector.

As producer of several events each year, Pamela says she looks to put women forward and support the voices of women entrepreneurs.

For example, this year’s Social Venture Institute conference includes a women’s circle for women to talk about issues, as well as an evening entrepreneur panel featuring Denise Taschereau of Fairware, Nicole Bridger of NicoleBridger.com, and Karri Schuermans of Chambar and Dirty Apron. Sherry Stewart Deutschmann of Letter Logic was an evening speaker.

In May, Pamela co-created a 2-day event called Women Entrepreneurs for Social Change. The event brought together 85 women business owners in Vancouver for networking opportunities, skill building and practical tools, and the creation of a community for deal flow to happen. 

“It was a very successful event,” says Pamela, noting it will likely happen annually.

“It’s one of the things I feel very proud about because as a first-time event we sold out, we were very well received and we’re still getting great feedback and there’s such a desire to do more,” she adds.

She notes in Vancouver and San Francisco there are more women jumping entering entrepreneurship and more programs in the investment arena to support them.

Her hope for women entrepreneurship is that there wouldn’t be a need to make the distinction, and that the balance exists without working to create equity, she says.

“I hope that in my lifetime that we won’t have to have this conversation,” says Pamela.

The field of microfinance is one area where there are “amazing” examples of what women in underdeveloped countries can do with small investments.

“It’s pretty clear that when you invest in women you’re investing in the economic success of a country,” says Pamela.

“As people understand more about the real impact that comes from investing in women I think we can grow this sector and it’s time, I think we’re being asked to have women be in the forefront and I feel hopeful.”

Click here for the original article.

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