By Jennifer Bessell
There has been a lot of talk about how COVID-19 adversely affected women, setting progress toward equality back considerably. Women became teachers, caregivers, cooks, businesswomen, dog walkers, and more, all simultaneously, while keeping their households healthy during a time of great uncertainty.
Women are no stranger to the obligations listed above, often bearing most of the responsibilities at home for creating a nurturing environment. COVID-19 amplified the situation by creating a circumstance in which women were suddenly juggling all these responsibilities, without daycares, afterschool programs, food services, schools and teachers, and other community supports. Many were doing all this while running businesses or continuing to work from home.
Barriers for women to become successful as entrepreneurs are well documented. NLOWE’s research project, “Drivers of Growth; An Economic Action Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador” (2017) identified many barriers, including difficulty accessing financing, limited business skills training, family commitments, lack of municipal government support, social perceptions, geography, and fear of risk taking. Despite these obstacles, and because of efforts to improve entrepreneurial opportunities for women in Canada, women are poised to be a stronger economic force. The number of women owned and operated businesses are climbing. That is good news. We need to continue to build and expand these opportunities.
What does any of this have to do with guilt?
In chatting recently with a few women entrepreneurs, guilt was identified as one of the biggest challenges currently faced. Juggling work priorities and family responsibility, at a time when it feels no matter what is done it is never enough. Experiencing daily a distracted, and fractured, focus that challenges feelings of productivity and success. And the guilt – the guilt of not being the best version of yourself, and your work. It can be overwhelming.
As I take stock of how women entrepreneurs responded to the current COVID-19 challenges, I am overwhelmed, and impressed with the resilience that has been shown, and continues to shine through. Times have been and continue to be tough, but women are making it work, and pivoting to keep their businesses going.
Women are seizing opportunities they never considered before. They are taking risks and branching into new markets. They are becoming tech savvy and embracing new ways to conduct business. They are asking and receiving help where they need it, and constantly demonstrating that fighting spirit that makes them remarkable. They may not be winning every battle, but the war looks promising!
In case no one has said it recently, you are enough.
You are awesome.
Guilt be damned.
Jennifer Bessell, Chief Executive Officer at NLOWE, is passionate about assisting women and youth in realizing their entrepreneurial ambitions. Jennifer is vice-chair of the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC) and enjoys volunteering as an advisor for the Company Program with Junior Achievement NL.