Is being female an asset or a liability in today’s business environment? According to a significant percentage of the winners on this year’s W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs, it’s the former. Some 42% of winners say being a woman has helped them in achieving business success. Nearly one-quarter—24%—say it has hindered their prospects. And 34% say it hasn’t had an effect at all.

But that’s not all these women had to say on the subject. Here are some of their best observations, opinions and experiences on what it really means to be a woman running a business in 2014.

Click Here to See the Full 2014 W100 Ranking

“By being a woman and a minority, I feel that I bring a new perspective to the table. That is why it is important to have more diversity in the boardroom; there needs to be someone there to challenge the status quo.”
Amiee Chan (No. 15), Norsat International Inc.

“Being female can often get your foot in the door on boards, as many are now hyper-conscious of being diverse. Once that foot is in the door, shove it wide open!
Mandy Farmer (No. 35), Accent Inns & Hotel Zed

“In the male-dominated construction industry, I’ve found my natural instinct, diplomacy, sensitivity, clarity and strong people skills to be a huge asset when dealing with many of our vendors and suppliers.”
Alison Grafton, president (No. 3), Rockwood Custom Homes Inc.

“I think I give this business a different perspective. Women often think differently; we have more creative problem-solving skills and are great implementers. I credit much of our success to the fact that half of our management team are women—this, in a technology business that is less than 20% female.”
Jennifer Osborne (No. 10) Search Engine People Inc.

“People in our industry were pretty surprised when I took over; I think there was more attention on me than there would have been if I were a man. They wanted to see if I would succeed. Put simply, I stand out in this crowded, male-dominated industry and, as a result, people want to hear what I have to say. And I capitalize on that.”
Stephanie Perry (No. 74), Permul Ltd.

“I believe being a young woman in an executive position in a very male-dominated industry differentiated me from the lot of 60-year-old men in the room, and actually opened many doors based on the fact that I was a novelty. Once the door opened, however, I had to deliver—and when meeting that objective, it makes no difference if you are a man or a woman.”
Madeleine Paquin (No. 19), Logistec Corp.

“These are huge generalizations, I know, but women have great instincts, and if we learn to trust them we have an ability to read situations expertly. And we tend to be more detail-oriented than men. In business, you must be able to sweat the small stuff, while still keeping an eye on the big picture.”
Grail Noble (No. 14), YellowHouse Events Inc.

“In the early years, banks were reluctant to finance women entrepreneurs; it was sometimes difficult to be taken seriously, especially talking to men about the women’s fashion industry. However, having gained respect in the market, it has been very helpful to be a woman in an industry that focuses on women.
Janet Stimpson (No. 2) White House Design Company

“As a woman I have had a decisive advantage in the jewellery industry. I have always felt a strong connection with our target customers; I’ve been able to empathize with the women to whom we cater, and this has enabled me to design pieces that truly speak to them.”
Rachel Mielke (No. 51), Hillberg & Berk

Read: Success Stories, Great Advice and Proven Tips from the 2014 W100

• • • • •

The ‘old boys’ club is alive and well.
Liz Scott (No. 22), Organizational Solutions Inc.

“When I first started building homes in 1954, people would pre-judge me and say: ‘She’s a woman, what does she know about construction?’ I would get a hard time from the inspectors right off the bat. However, when the inspectors learned about me and my workmanship, their attitudes changed. Eventually the inspectors would come to my construction site and ask: ‘Did you inspect these houses?’ I would say ‘yes,’ and they wouldn’t even inspect the house because my dedication to perfection was known.”
Martha Zenker (No. 69), Lisgar Development Ltd.

“Our industry is predominantly male. Even though the men treat me in a gentlemanly manner, they still tend to think that I’m not as competent as I am simply because women are a rarity in this business.”
Lourdes Gant (No. 5) Manatee Holdings Ltd., No. 5

“I am a woman in a very male industry, so I am not invited to the golf games or outings that my competitors enjoy. I was originally seen as odd to some customers.”
Cathy Buckingham (No. 17), TNR Industrial Doors Inc.

“Being in a male-dominated industry has hindered my business a little. I have had to prove my knowledge and fight a little to be taken seriously. But that’s part of what I love about being an entrepreneur!”
Orit Koren (No. 11), Trillium FSB Inc.

• • • • •

“If you think that being a woman has a bearing on how people will treat you, or how successful you will be, then you may see evidence of that. I never believed this; I don’t believe being a woman helped me or hindered me in my success.”
Karen Richardson (No. 31), Freeze-Dry Foods

I don’t think gender has anything to do with success. It’s about having goals, being diligent and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals.”
Viive Tamm (No. 59), Tamm + Kit

A good business model, good quality processes and good products are the key—not the gender of the person who owns the business.”
Maureen Lucas (No. 27), LucasWorks Inc.

“I dislike the ‘gender’ card. I am personally accountable for any limitations I have.
Jodi Scarlett (No. 50), ProStar Cleaning and Restoration Inc.

“Women are advised to act like men to advance their careers. This has not reduced the gender gap; it has only acknowledged the gap. What has worked for me is to be comfortable in my own skin and to lead more confidently.”
Lakshmi Raj (No. 28), Replicon Inc.

Click Here to See the 2014 W100 Ranking In Full

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