March 20, 2018

What does successful entrepreneurship look like for women?

Hunter Hub forum hears from federal science minister Navdeep Bains and other thought leaders
University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon, left, Creative Destruction Lab – Rockies associate director Alice Reimer, and Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains spoke to an audience at the Hunter Hub for Entrepreurial Thinking.

Elizabeth Cannon, left, Alice Reimer, and Navdeep Bains spoke to an audience at the Hunter Hub.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

On March 15, the Hon. Navdeep Bains, federal minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), visited the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking for a stimulating and enlightening discussion focusing on women in entrepreneurship and federal investments currently being made in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through Budget 2018.

The public forum was moderated by University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon and also featured successful entrepreneur Alice Reimer, who joined the minister as a guest panelist.

Reimer is the associate director of the Creative Destruction Lab – Rockies at the University of Calgary. She’s a successful technology entrepreneur, and an exceptional leader and mentor in the local community.

A passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, Minister Bains spoke to a crowd of nearly 80 guests including University of Calgary students, faculty and staff as well as community leaders and members of the local business community.

“We appreciate the government’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in Canada’s innovation ecosystem. Our people are our strength — we all benefit by supporting early-career researchers and a diversity of voices,” said President Cannon. “The government’s commitments amplify our university’s priorities, as we continue to advance entrepreneurial thinking, innovation and inclusion on our campus.”

At the crux of the discussion was the question, What does success look like, when talking about innovation and skills, economic growth and creating good quality jobs? Bains said the topic has come up with Prime Minister Trudeau.

“We need to see more Canadian companies that are true global champions. Not only successful in Canada but can succeed globally as well,” said Bains.

“We cannot afford to leave 50 per cent of our population on the sidelines. We must engage women in participating in a more meaningful way in the workforce,” said Navdeep Bains.

“We cannot afford to leave 50 per cent of our population on the sidelines," said Navdeep Bains.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Women in leadership was another topic of discussion, particularly the role of Cannon as UCalgary president, who received high praise from the minister.

“Thank you for your leadership. President Cannon has been absolutely essential in driving the innovation and skills agenda promoting science at the federal level,” Bains said. “She was one of the first people we sought out to seek advice and counsel. You do a lot for Calgary but make no mistake, you have a positive impact on Canada as well.”

A key theme during the chat was advancing gender equality by eliminating the barriers preventing women from entering typically male-dominated fields. Minister Bains spoke at length on this topic including highlighting the new Women Entrepreneurship Strategy. The strategy will take a comprehensive approach, addressing critical growth stages and other challenges to better support women entrepreneurs, to help them grow their businesses and to remove barriers to their success.

“We cannot afford to leave 50 per cent of our population on the sidelines. We must engage women in participating in a more meaningful way in the workforce,” said Bains.

A veteran of the business and entrepreneurship, with the battle scars to prove it — as Alice Reimer put it — she also offered some sage advice to members of the audience, many of whom were women. “It actually takes a team and I always talk about a complementary set of team members, you don’t always have to wear the cape,” said Reimer.

Reimer stressed the importance of finding supportive men who understand and appreciate the diversity of women on the team.

Can a university think and act like an entrepreneur?

Universities are knowledge enterprises that can foster rich ecosystems of discovery, creativity and innovation in their communities ... but often, universities can be hampered by complex bureaucracy and systemic inertia. Is it possible to turn a public university into an entrepreneurial powerhouse?

In a webinar, President Cannon will share her experiences incorporating entrepreneurial thinking into the strategy and operations of one of Canada’s leading public research universities, and propose how other institutions can do the same.

The Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking is the University of Calgary’s new multidisciplinary initiative to engage and immerse students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community in a culture of entrepreneurial thinking, challenging them with a new and bold approach to teaching, learning, discovery and knowledge-sharing.