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Canada’s Tech Scene from the Perspective of Female Founders

November 19, 2022

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is celebrated every year on November 19 in 144 countries worldwide. Its goal is to empower the 4 billion unique women on the planet to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams and inspire the 250 million girls living in poverty.

According to research done by the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, funded by the Government of Canada, women-owned businesses have been the hardest hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Women were more likely to sell, shut down, discontinue, or quit their businesses because of the pandemic. What’s important to highlight is the fact that diverse women entrepreneurs were the hardest hit, including Black and other racialized women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities and 2SLGBTQ+ individuals.

And while it may feel like the odds are against female-identifying entrepreneurs, especially when considering the fact that only 11% of startups in Canada had at least one women founder in 2021, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Research has shown that the number of women entrepreneurs in new high-growth startups and unicorns has almost doubled since 2019.

Of course, Canada still has a long way to go when it comes to bridging the historical gender gap in the high-growth startup scene, nevertheless, we are starting to see more women tech founders, especially in FinTech and health care. For example, at Volta 44% of our Resident companies have at least one women founder and 39% have at least one BIPOC founder.

When talking to female-identifying entrepreneurs in tech, it becomes obvious that these individuals work hard to be the change they wish to see in the world. Many women in tech have actively decided to become role models for inclusivity and diversity in the ecosystem. “I think there is a lot of stigma and ideologies about women in tech that weren’t always positive. But the landscape is changing and it is becoming more common to see more diversity in the field,” commented Niva Sabeshan, CEO at Motryx, a Volta Resident company that provides a quality control solution for blood sample transport.

“Being a female entrepreneur in the world of tech has not been easy. It takes a lot of strength to be one of the only females in a room and make yourself heard,” said Bronwyn Bridges, co-founder of PragmaClin, a Volta Resident company in the MedTech field that has developed a digital assessment tool for neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease. “However, being passionate about what you do and showing you are a leader in your field not only helps motivate you but inspire other females to follow the same path.”

Female-identifying entrepreneurs are slowly shattering the glass ceiling and bringing a lot of positive qualities to the table. As pinpointed by Bronwyn: “Women are incredibly resourceful and hungry. For decades women have been trying to make their voices heard and their actions noticed. So, I think one valuable thing is how strong women are and their amazing ability to make something big out of few resources. Studies have shown that women in business are more profitable, create more jobs and are more effective.”

At this point in time, we all know that the economy greatly benefits from more female entrepreneurs but that doesn’t mean that taking that first step is easy. Niva’s advice for any woman considering a career in tech entrepreneurship is to “find something you're passionate about and just go for it. Don’t be afraid of failure because it is not always a bad thing – I tend to use them as learning opportunities, and you never want to wonder 'what if?' 10 years from now. Also, have tons of fun doing it!”

Similarly, Bronwyn says: “take the leap. I never imagined I would be where I am today. The first step is the hardest step but also the most rewarding. Believe in yourself and you can achieve all your goals when you put your head down and focus.”

If you are considering taking the path of tech entrepreneurship, please know that there are many programs and resources available to help you in your journey, including our List of Resources for Women Entrepreneurs in Nova Scotia. And hopefully, by this time next year, we will have once again doubled the number of new tech companies with at least one female founder in Canada.

Get to know the featured entrepreneurs:

Bronwyn Bridges’ Bio

As Atlantic Canada’s 30 Under 30, Bronwyn Bridges is passionate about equal access to healthcare, neurodegenerative diseases, mental health awareness, and driving change through digital health solutions. 

Bronwyn is the CEO and Co-founder of PragmaClin, a MedTech company that has developed a digital assessment tool for neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease. Bronwyn has helped to leverage over one million dollars in non-dilutive government funding and received over two hundred thousand dollars through pitch competition wins.

Bronwyn has published research about the Pathology of Parkinson’s Disease and the Potential Benefit of Dietary Polyphenols and has presented at several conferences on her work in the digital health space. She sits on the local Parkinson’s Disease board and the Academic Council at Memorial University.

She has won several awards over her research career such as Youth of the Year, Terry Fox Humanitarian Scholar, National Impact Award in AgeTech, and over a dozen awards within the past year for her accomplishments in the MedTech field and digital health space. Bronwyn has been named one of the top entrepreneurs in Canada, the overall winner for University startups worldwide, and has participated in some of the top programs for entrepreneurs, such as Creative Destruction Lab, Canadian Tech Accelerators, Asian Pacific Foundation for Women Missions and more.

Niva Sabeshan’s Bio

Niva Sabeshan is the CEO at Motryx, who provides a quality control solution for blood sample transport. Motryx is headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia and is now in hospitals and labs across Europe and North America. Niva moved to Halifax in 2013 from Dubai, UAE. She went to Dalhousie University where she completed her Microbiology and Immunology degree and then went on to get her MBA. Niva is passionate about creating a work culture where people feel challenged and heard. In her role, she enjoys working closely with clinicians and directors to find solutions where Motryx can positively impact patient health and increase efficiencies in hospitals. In her free time, Niva enjoys going for long walks with her partner and their dog, Duke.

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