Realizing the potential of gender and diversity

Barbara Orser is the Deloitte Professor in the Management of Growth Enterprises. She is the former Chair of the Canadian Taskforce for Women’s Enterprise Growth and co-author of ‘Feminine Capital. Unlocking the Power of Women Entrepreneurs.’ Her research about small and medium-sized enterprises focuses on entrepreneurial decision-making, gender influences, internationalization of SMES, and public policy.

Barbara Orser

Barbara Orser

Inclusion is a fundamental aspect of success in today’s diverse, global economy and a priority of the federal government.  Enhancing the role and contributions of women is a critical way to achieve that success. We ignore women entrepreneurs at our peril: even a modest increase in the number of women-owned enterprises in Canada can add billions of dollars to the economy. To this end, I help Telfer students, industry and policymakers understand the interactions among entrepreneurship, innovation, and gender, rich frontiers for new business opportunities.

My vision is a nation in which all Canadians are economically self-sufficient. This vision focuses my research and teaching to entrepreneurship students in business and engineering. Aspiring business owners sit before me in the classroom. I want to make sure that more women are among the next generation of successful enterprise owners. One way of doing so is to explore gendered assumptions in the venture creation process and barriers to entrepreneurial success.

What we are learning also benefits industry and government, as policymakers seek to understand how policy and programming can overcome hurdles to start-up and growth. For example, working with Telfer colleagues and Public Service Procurement Canada, we are exploring how procurement and contracting policies might be used to encourage more innovative small businesses, including those owned by women, to do business with the federal government. We are examining the value and implementation of public and private sector supplier diversity initiatives, the impacts of mainstream and female-focused business accelerators, and gender differences in financial literacy among small business owners. This research is informing policy and program reform in Canada and abroad.

Drawing on Telfer research to inform the next generation of evidence-based, small business public policy is not lost on my students, some of whom will be among those who benefit directly from policy reform.