Many women entrepreneurs in Canada struggle to access capital, technology, networks and training. Cisco Canada has launched a program called the Cisco Women Entrepreneur’s Circle which aims to bridge this gap.
Cisco is working with Women of Influence, a community dedicated to the advancing women professionals; Completely Managed, a managed services provider; the Business Development Bank of Canada; and Communitech, and industry-led innovation centre based in Waterloo, Ont.
Businesses founded by women make big social and economic contributions to the community even if they account for a small portion of the local SMB population, according Bernadette Wightman, president of Cisco Canada.
“Women-led businesses are good for Canada. While only 15 per cent of all Canadian small and medium sized businesses are run by women, research tells us that not only do these businesses boost Canada’s GDP, but they also increase national well-being and competitiveness, improve women’s employability, empowerment and gender equality,” she said. “Cisco has committed to helping women become more successful entrepreneurs by addressing some of the obstacles they face in building their IT Capability and business resilience.”
“Not only are the numbers of female-owned businesses rising, their average net profits are increasing, and statistics show they tend to stay in business longer than their male counterparts,” says Stephania Varalli, co-CEO, Women of Influence.
“Keeping up with new technology is a challenge and this is certainly an area where BDC can support women entrepreneurs to take their promising businesses to the next level,” according to Lesley Lawrence, senior-vice president, financing and consulting – British-Columbia and North at BDC. “As Canada’s Business Development Bank, we are committed to helping women-owned businesses and women entrepreneurs build growing and profitable companies — and we believe that working collaboratively will make a huge difference in helping businesses implement innovative solutions.”
The Cisco Women Entrepreneur’s Circle intends to enable women to “map and accelerate their digital strategy” by pushing three key initiatives:
- Circle of Learning: Enhancing Digital knowledge through the Cisco Canada Women Entrepreneur Academy. Women will be able to access seven online virtual training courses, totaling over 90 hours of training from the Cisco Networking Academy offered at no cost to eligible registrants. Courses include: Entrepreneurship, Be Your Own Boss, Get Connected, Cisco Packet Tracer, Introduction to the Internet of Everything, Mobility Fundamentals, and Introduction to Cybersecurity.
- Circle of Productivity: Powering Your Business with Cisco. Customized by business size, this fully managed service is simple to deploy, with effortless installation and integration. Called The Entrepreneur Xperience, each data center in a box features everything you need to get your business communicating, collaborating, and connected: phones, routers, switches and so much more. Cisco makes it easy to unify your communications with an offer that is simple, Completely Managed, and cost-effective.
- Circle of Innovation: Bringing your Digital Strategy to Life. A program run by Cisco in collaboration with Communitech and BDC. Internship students from the University of Waterloo will be paired with entrepreneurs to help build the organization’s digital strategy, scale and impact in the marketplace. Interns will work from the new Cisco Innovation Centre in downtown Toronto, will be given access to Cisco’s DevNet crowdsourced developer community, and will be provided with Cisco mentoring opportunities throughout the 12-week program. Participant women entrepreneurs will be selected from nominations provided by Communitech and BDC.
“Partnering with Cisco Canada in this capacity allows us to connect business-minded women to world-class resources and opportunities,” said Alayne Hynes, talent program manager, Communitech. “The free virtual courses will benefit women in our ecosystem as a self-guided learning tool, and being matched with an intern from the University of Waterloo is a wonderful opportunity for our entrepreneurs and students to grow together.”