Executive Vice President
Government & Community Affairs
RBC Financial Group
Women Entrepreneurs Breakfast
Friday, November 5, 2004
Kelly, thank you for the warm introduction…and a very good morning to all of you.
I must start with a big confession…I'm a huge advocate and fan of women entrepreneurs. My early family environment fostered an eagerness to champion this market several years ago. When you grow up with six sisters, you learn pretty darn fast about the importance of women in families, society, communities and business. And believe it or not, the Women Entrepreneurs of Canada Foundation named me an honourary woman in 2001 - that's truly fact not fiction! I wear the distinction with great pride…
Yesterday, during the flight to Saskatoon (and with this event on my mind), I thought about the 4,000 Canadian women who turned out for the Royal Bank Power of Women Conference in Toronto a few years ago. I thought about what Gloria Steinem, the most recognized voice for modern feminism, said: "We often feel crazy and alone and that's why we come together for days like this." And I thought about another one of her comments, "I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career." I see many heads nodding in agreement, including my own!
Getting back to Gloria's remark about often feeling crazy and alone and coming together…I couldn't help but wonder if this sentiment, in part, drew women entrepreneurs to this breakfast - a need to connect with people who "get it" and "get you." By the way, Gloria Steinem was among a powerhouse roster of speakers at this conference. What most of these high-profile women had in common, is a strong vision and a relentless passion in pursuing dreams. Their stories didn't focus on their success so much as the path they each took to get there. In translating their personal experiences into lessons learned, they had some insightful tips for women entrepreneurs - for all of us: Paula Nelson, a best-selling author and entrepreneur, known to millions for her financial commentaries on CNN Business News, talked about focusing on strengths and managing weaknesses. Paula said, "The goal is not to be superwoman but strategic woman, not to have it all but to have what's important, not to do it all but to do what's important." Talk about the power of leadership and passion at work!
When reflecting on the power of women entrepreneurs, it seems appropriate to talk in the context of "we've come a long way." It also seems appropriate to mention last month's recognition of the 75th anniversary of the 'Persons' Case' - as you know, the Bank of Canada launched a new $50 bank note featuring the Famous 5 - Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards and Irene Parlby, as well as Thérèse Casgrain. This was the first time that female Canadian leaders appeared on Canadian currency. "The Famous 5 are best remembered for their work as suffragists, legislators and champions of the rights and welfare of women and children, and for their successful appeal of the 'Persons' Case in 1929. They were largely responsible for securing the right to vote for women, to run for public office, to serve as school trustees and to serve as Senators." In many ways, they also paved the way for women entrepreneurs - for "celebrating women's achievements, while commemorating courage, tenacity and conviction, and encouraging women's leadership." Yes, we've come a long way all right…and we have a way to go!
The impact and influence of women on the prosperity of Canada is not lost on RBC Financial Group or me. Although business interest and opportunity led RBC to pursue the women entrepreneurs' market about ten years ago, I saw other agendas at play - the big one being the critically and strategically important contributions that women make in advancing a civil society. There's been a common thread all along.
The thousands of women I've met over the years have given me insight into the intrinsic connection between the economic and social agendas of our country. And RBC's work in this market has made it crystal clear to us (call it self-enlightenment if you will), that Canada's prosperity is contingent on the key link between these two agendas.
On Monday, Gord Nixon, RBC Financial Group's President and CEO spoke about "Achieving Canada's potential in the 21st century" at the Princeton Investments Distinguished Lecture in Finance in Edmonton and was also in Saskatoon the next day. He said, "There are three key ways for an economy to grow and prosper. The first is to invest in improving human skills through education and training - investing in the most advanced technologies. The second way is to pursue international markets through foreign trade and investment - identifying our niches and specializing in those things that we do best. The third way is to promote economic growth - stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship." This is a room filed with passionate leaders who stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship every day.
When RBC targeted the women entrepreneurs market some ten years ago, our initial strategy was community/grassroots-based…we created advisory councils. Women told us to put dollars into learning - provide education and support, break down barriers and help build networks. Knowing we had to change the culture and mind-set of our staff, we embarked on training our workforce - small business account managers - men and women across the country. The program taught gender communication but it also served to raise market awareness within our sales force.
We also needed a way to sustain and spread the learning, so we created local champions - the cornerstone for delivery of our programs. The national network comprises approximately 100 women entrepreneur market champions. They are our relationship account managers…individuals like Marlene Miller and Leanne Cory in this region, who share a passion for serving women entrepreneurs. Kelly will mention other members of the RBC team following my remarks.
RBC also wanted to make it easier for women entrepreneurs to find useful information faster, as that's what good relationship building is all about. This was on our minds when we launched the web site for women entrepreneurs and our Champions newsletter. These resources provide information, association listings and news, as well as tips about access to markets, networking, financing, growing your business and much more. Copies of our newest edition of Champions are available here, so please pick one up at your convenience. You'll see that we feature stories about dynamic women entrepreneurs, so if you have a great story you'd like to share, let Marlene, Leanne and others know.
We realize that access to expertise/financing is essential for any business, so we created partnerships both in and outside the country to help support the development of small business. RBC also initiated and participated in trade missions and alliances with the federal government. These initiatives have opened the exporting door for many women entrepreneurs.
RBC sponsors many networking events, like this one, because this is where relationships are started and the deal making and alliances are formed! It's also one of the reasons we established a virtual network on our web site. This is an online community that entrepreneurs can join to receive helpful resources and free publications. Community associations and organizations such as Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WES), are also doing wonderful work in helping women to access information and facilitate networking. It's great that Terri Parent and Jill Salamon, from WES, have joined us this morning.
Needless to say, RBC is proud to be the #1 bank for women entrepreneurs in Canada, with 22 per cent market share. We know the women entrepreneurs' market is the market of the future: consumer spending accounts for two thirds of the economy and women make 85% of all consumer purchasing decisions. Women entrepreneurs account for 70% of new business start-ups. Clearly, women are important to Canada's economy and to RBC's business. Although we still have a way to go to meet all the needs of women entrepreneurs, we're proud of our accomplishments to-date. Through our activities, initiatives and feedback from you, we're generating more awareness about the economic power of businesswomen and women consumers. We believe very passionately in serving and supporting women entrepreneurs.
And now I want to focus on the real success stories - if only there was time to single out all of you:
Janet, Barb, Garnette, Monika and Cathy, we're very proud of your successes and confident of your bright futures. I'm sure I can speak on behalf of Kent Petrovicz, Joe Clavelle, Michelle Robstad, Tammy Bodnarek and Terry LaRocque - when I say we share in the pride. Talk about the power of leadership and passion at work!
Special thanks to Marlene Miller for inviting me to speak at this wonderful event - and to Linda Perozuk for helping to organize my involvement - and to the entire RBC team - you truly make me proud!
And special thanks to all the women entrepreneurs who have shared breakfast with us this morning…I'll have lots to think about on my flight home to Toronto - and it won't be about Gloria Steinem this time - it'll be about all of you! The power, leadership and passion of women entrepreneurs is alive and well in Saskatoon!
Thank you…and now let's hear from you!