Framework curated by Nicolle Jaramillo, Research Analyst at MindFrame Connect
The underrepresentation of women in entrepreneurship is striking, with just 23% of businesses in Canada being women-owned . However, their increased participation could potentially boost the Canadian economy by up to 150 billion dollars . This framework explores the crucial role of mentorship in bridging these disparities, mainly through the support of FEMtors, accomplished women supporting emerging talents. Despite its potential, 63% of women have never had a formal mentor .
To note: 'women’ is inclusive to any individual who has self-identified as a woman; including cisgender, transgender and/or non-binary individuals.
Women embark on their entrepreneurial journeys for various reasons. Some see entrepreneurship as a means to emancipate themselves, fostering free expression and forming new identities . It also offers a path to autonomy and liberation from workplace constraints . Additionally, the glass ceiling effect, an organizational barrier that impedes women from reaching senior and managerial positions, compels many women to create businesses to achieve desired career growth . Dissatisfaction with current jobs and a desire for change drive women towards entrepreneurship .
Despite their motivations, women often face numerous challenges on the path to entrepreneurship. Participatory norms, social validation, and a lack of psychological safety can discourage women from pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams . Other barriers include personal characteristics, labour market experience, and family responsibilities . A lack of family support, discrimination, difficulty accessing financial resources, low self-esteem, limited access to entrepreneurial education, market information, bureaucratic complexity, and difficulties achieving work-life balance further hinder women's participation in entrepreneurship .
Mentorship tailored to address the unique needs of women entrepreneurs can be a powerful solution. Not only does it benefit the mentees, but it also fulfills the mentors themselves.
It promotes leadership, inclusivity, collaboration, and the development of new leaders . Mentors gain accountability, access to real-life experience, inspiration, motivation, areas for improvement, and networking support  . They also nurture resilience and build social capital  . Specially designed mentoring programs for women help organizations achieve higher job performance, increased commitment, better communication, job satisfaction, and a more positive work environment  . Women often mentor others because they want to support fellow women and have experienced the benefits of mentoring themselves .
While mentorship can be highly beneficial, several barriers can impede its successful application:
• Potential mentees may not actively seek mentors, even if senior women are willing to mentor them .
• Mentors may hesitate to accept mentorship roles due to their perceived lack of expertise in the field .
• The absence of formal mentoring programs within organizations .
Several strategies can be employed to foster a higher number of women participating in mentorship:
• Implement public policies that support and empower female entrepreneurs, enabling them to develop lasting businesses and gain experience that women can share during mentoring sessions .
• Foster entrepreneurial success through financial and educational institutions, incubators, accelerators, investors, networks, and organizations dedicated to supporting women in business      .
• Encourage organizations to establish formal mentoring programs, making mentorship more accessible and structured .
• Encourage women in senior positions to actively advertise their willingness to mentor others .
• Encourage women to actively seek mentors within their organization, field, or industry and define clear goals for the mentoring relationship .
Women in mentorship, particularly in entrepreneurship, is not just about bridging gender gaps but also about fostering economic growth, inclusivity, and leadership development. Through FEMtors and concerted efforts to overcome barriers, we can empower women to take on more prominent roles in entrepreneurship, ultimately benefiting individuals and society.
• Take a look at MindFrame Connect's framework
• Review one (or more) of these TED Talks
• Listen to one (or more) of these podcasts
 Bahrami, P.,Nosratabadi, S., Palouzian, K., & Hegedűs, S. (2023). Modeling the impact of mentoring on women's work-life balance: A grounded theory approach. Administrative Sciences, 13(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci13010006
 Castrillon, C. (2023). Why women benefit from mentors in the Workplace. Forbes.https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2023/07/26/why-women-benefit-from-mentors-in-the-workplace/?sh=53c72a062622
 Chauhan, J., Mishra, G., & Bhakri, S. (2022).Career success of women: Role of family responsibilities, mentoring, and perceived organizational support. Vision, 26(1), 105-117. https://doi.org/10.1177/09722629211024887
 Cukier, W., Gagnon, S., Dalziel, M., Grant, K.,Laplume, A., Ozkazanc-Pan, B., & Saba, T. (2022). Women entrepreneurship:towards an inclusive innovation ecosystem. Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship, 34(5), 475-482. https://doi.org/10.1080/08276331.2022.2066436
 Joseph, J., & McKenzie, A. I. (2022). Black women coaches in community: Promising practices for mentorship in Canada. Frontiersin Sports and Active Living, 4, 884239. https://doi.org/10.3389/fspor.2022.884239
 Kelly, G., & McAdam, M. (2023). Women entrepreneurs negotiating identities in liminal digital spaces. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 47(5), 1942-1970. https://doi.org/10.1177/10422587221115363
 Latifi, V., Ramadani, V., & Rexhepi, G.(2022). Women minority entrepreneurs: Motivational factors and challenges. Strategic Change, 31(2), 219-225. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsc.2491
 Mustafa, M., & Treanor, L. (2022). Gender and entrepreneurship in the New Era: New perspectives on the role of gender and entrepreneurial activity. Entrepreneurship Research Journal, 12(3), 213-226.https://doi.org/10.1515/erj-2022-0228
 Neal, S., Boatman, J., & Miller, L. (n.d.). Women as mentors: Does she or doesn't she? DDI: Leadership Development & Assessment.https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/documents/womenasmentors_rr_ddi.pdf_ext=.pdf
 Orser, B. (2022). Building back better through feminist entrepreneurship policy. International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 14(4), 468-488. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJGE-05-2022-0089
 Raman, R., Subramaniam, N., Nair, V. K., Shivdas,A., Achuthan, K., & Nedungadi, P. (2022). Women entrepreneurship and sustainable development: Bibliometric analysis and emerging research trends. Sustainability, 14(15), 9160. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14159160
 Schwiebert, V. L., Deck, M. D., Bradshaw, M. L.,Scott, P., & Harper, M. (1999). Women as mentors. The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 37(4), 241.
 Sharma, L. (2022). Assessing the "entrepreneurship as emancipation" perspective among women in STEM. Management Decision, 60(6), 1585-1605. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-06-2020-0696
 Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub. (2023). The State of Women's Entrepreneurship in Canada 2023.https://wekh.ca/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/WEKH_State_of_Womens_Entrepreneurship_in_Canada_2023-X.pdf
We draw these best practices from the first-hand experience of program managers like you and our own expertise. This white paper is a comprehensive guide that will be your roadmap to building a world-class mentoring program.