As the 2017 statistic of Windsor being the worst city in the country for women continues to spread (Policy Alternatives), Workforce WindsorEssex wanted to highlight the good work that is being done in the Windsor-Essex community and share success stories of women thriving in their careers.

With a focus on women working in STEM careers and female entrepreneurs in Windsor-Essex, Workforce WindsorEssex drafted the RISE Windsor-Essex Needs Assessment Report for 2020. Based on community consultations, the report provides an overview of the challenges facing women in their careers in STEM and entrepreneurship, and the successes of community organizations, local companies and entrepreneurs, and education institutions. Recommendations for improvement to the local entrepreneurship ecosystem were identified from local success stories and provincial best practices.

The main challenges facing local entrepreneurs identified include: imposter syndrome, finding mentors, and obtaining financial investments. The feeling of not being an expert and not belonging in the world of entrepreneurship leaves many female entrepreneurs unsure of how to start and grow their businesses. And the lack of available mentors and the knowledge of how to get in touch with an expert leaves many women struggling alone to find resources to start or grow their businesses in our region. Those looking to grow their businesses also face the difficult task of earning financial investments for their company, in part due to unconscious biases of investors and the lack of female investors in the Windsor-Essex region.

The celebrated successes for our community include: cooperative education programs, service provider support, and lower costs of operating businesses in Windsor-Essex. Co-op programs were identified by many consulted to be the most beneficial activity for women looking to begin a career in STEM and entrepreneurship, providing professional experiences and company connections in the community. The support of those serving entrepreneurs in the Windsor-Essex region were identified as successes because of the one-on-one counselling that many provide to their clients, answering the common questions related to starting and growing a business. Additionally, the lower costs associated with operating a business in our region, especially in the rural communities, was a benefit for entrepreneurs not wanting to start their business in a more competitive and expensive urban market.

Recommendations for the community include: diversity of community advocates with varied experience, open work spaces in the community, and increased data collection. While Windsor-Essex has strong female role models, there is still a need for more diversity in these advocates, including ethnicity, language, career field, and experience level. With many entrepreneurs working from home or out of cafes and entrepreneurial support services scattered throughout the city, the need for a coordinated open work space is ever growing in our communities, particularly those that offer programming, office supports, meeting space, and maker space, in both the city and the county.

To read more about how Windsor-Essex supports women in STEM and female entrepreneurs, check out the 2020 Needs Assessment Report here.