There is a great divide. One that represents the inequality between women and men; a divide that exists and persists in business ecosystems around the world. Even in Western cultures, such as Canada, where there is a healthy economy and a progressive society, the divide is evident—and it is a problem. Tasnuva Chaudhury, PhD in Management candidate, is conducting research that is working to change this.

Through her work looking at women and non-dominant groups, such as immigrants in business, Tasnuva aims to shift ideologies, dismantle stereotypes, and shatter that glass ceiling, once and for all. It is very exciting because Tasnuva’s research can help change the narrative to one that highlights and honours women as leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators.

Tasnuva Chaudhury

Tasnuva Chaudhury, PhD Candidate

Although Canada is ranked third in the world for a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, the reality is that women are still significantly underrepresented in business. Studies indicate a continued slow growth in the advancement of women in leadership positions. On average, 17 to 19 per cent of executive officers or board members of Canadian companies are women. Moreover, women-led small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) account for only 16 per cent of all SMEs—37 per cent if you include self-employed women.

“Compared to male entrepreneurs, we do not have enough women entrepreneurs participating in innovative ecosystem. We need to break down the structural barriers to change this.”

Tasnuva is keen to uncover the structural barriers that women entrepreneurs face when it comes to starting a business and maintaining a competitive edge through innovation. With a rapidly changing business world, innovative strategies are critical for growth and survival; businesses need to be adaptable and nimble and bring novelty to their products and services. Yet, the problem ensues: women entrepreneurs struggle with innovative strategic growth. Tasnuva wants to know why and to better understand the noticeable inherent gender biases that exist against women within the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem—likely a large part of the problem.

“Stereotypical representation of women in the media, a need for more inclusive entrepreneurship policies, less access to capital, underrepresentation of women in entrepreneurship pedagogy, and perception of lower entrepreneurial skill, are some of the challenges inhibiting women’s advancement in entrepreneurship.”

As part of her research, Tasnuva studies the existing paradigms around business culture that point to leadership and innovation being strongly associated with masculinity. Tasnuva recognizes that the “think manager, think male” phenomenon is a serious limitation for women and underrepresented groups because far too often men are depicted as the successful leaders of business concurrently failing to see women’s leadership potential. Without an inclusive and equitable construct, women are at a disadvantage—the consequence: women have unequal access to capital and therefore limited when it comes to innovative strategies.

Tasnuva wants to change the narrative to: “Think women entrepreneurs, think innovation. We need to move away from this connotation of a masculine syndrome and make it an equal playing field.”

Furthermore, the existing literature and pedagogical templates are still very fragmented when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship—especially for women in business.

“We need a holistic understanding of the factors, drivers, and barriers for innovative SME entrepreneurs and the strategies women employ to create successful innovative ventures. The field is still developing so there is so much room for growth.”

Tasnuva knows that for the entrepreneurial ecosystem to evolve and be more progressive—in other words, be more inclusive and equitable—dissemination of information and resources that help women navigate the entrepreneurial world and gain the required skills is essential.

“Among many things, we need more government or entrepreneurship hubs that support women-led initiatives.”

Much of Tasnuva’s work while living in Bangladesh was as a research associate and consultant for organizations such as Save the Children, UK, and International Organization for Migration, where she developed initiatives to help improve the lives of vulnerable groups. These experiences sparked a passion, driving her desire to pursue her MBA, and now her PhD, and continue her work helping vulnerable communities with entrepreneurial and innovative solutions and pathways.

Tasnuva is a voice and advocate for women and all those underrepresented—a person who absolutely loves what she does and wants to see real change happen. Tasnuva is the president of the Sprott Graduate Research Programs student society, the recipient of the 2020-2021 Ontario Graduate Scholarship and the 2021 recipient of the Carol-Ann Tetrault Sirsly Memorial Scholarship—awarded to an outstanding PhD student working in the areas of business that have significant impact to corporate and social responsibility.

It is time to adopt Tasnuva’s maxim: Think Women as Entrepreneurs, Innovators, and Leaders. It really will make the world a better place.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in ,
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