Women in Entrepreneurship: The Role of Female Mentors (FEMtors)

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 [14]. However, their increased participation could potentially boost the Canadian economy by up to 150 billion dollars [4]. 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 [2].

To note: 'women’ is inclusive to any individual who has self-identified as a woman; including cisgender, transgender and/or non-binary individuals.

Motivations for Women in Entrepreneurship

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 [6]. It also offers a path to autonomy and liberation from workplace constraints [13]. 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 [8]. Dissatisfaction with current jobs and a desire for change drive women towards entrepreneurship [7].

Challenges in Women's 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 [6]. Other barriers include personal characteristics, labour market experience, and family responsibilities [4]. 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 [7].

Mentorship as a Solution

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 [2]. Mentors gain accountability, access to real-life experience, inspiration, motivation, areas for improvement, and networking support [2] [12]. They also nurture resilience and build social capital [5] [9]. Specially designed mentoring programs for women help organizations achieve higher job performance, increased commitment, better communication, job satisfaction, and a more positive work environment [1] [3]. Women often mentor others because they want to support fellow women and have experienced the benefits of mentoring themselves [9].

Barriers to Effective Mentorship

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 [9].

Mentors may hesitate to accept mentorship roles due to their perceived lack of expertise in the field [9].

The absence of formal mentoring programs within organizations [9].

Promoting Women in Mentorship

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 [4].

Foster entrepreneurial success through financial and educational institutions, incubators, accelerators, investors, networks, and organizations dedicated to supporting women in business [4] [8] [7] [11] [10] [14].

Encourage organizations to establish formal mentoring programs, making mentorship more accessible and structured [9].

Encourage women in senior positions to actively advertise their willingness to mentor others [9].

Encourage women to actively seek mentors within their organization, field, or industry and define clear goals for the mentoring relationship [9].

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.

Do you want to explore more?

Take a look at MindFrame Connect's framework

Review one (or more) of these TED Talks

- Mentorship Can Change the Gender Gap in the STEM Fields

- The Value of Mentoring Women and Minorities in Tech

- How mentoring girls will change the world

Listen to one (or more) of these podcasts

- She Mentors

- Women's Mentoring Network of Canada

- Working Women Mentor


[1] 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

[2] 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

[3] 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

[4] 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

[5] 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

[6] 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

[7] 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

[8] 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

[9] 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

[10] 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

[11] 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

[12] 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.

[13] 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

[14] 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


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