Women in business face different challenges than their male counterparts. To address professional shortcomings identified by female business leaders across the country, advocacy group Women's Enterprise Centre is coordinating Taking the Stage® - a series of training sessions in the Sea to Sky corridor.
"We really believe that one of the main things that we needed to add to our services for women business owners was help for them with confidence building, leadership skills and presentation abilities," said Laurel Douglas, CEO of Women's Enterprise Centre (WEC).
"That is consistently something that our clients say they struggle with so that's why we wanted to add this."
Divided into four training sessions, Taking the Stage will address what Douglas describes as "soft skills" - interpersonal techniques that take a business from good to great. The format has been customized to accommodate issues facing small and medium business owners, being the dominant force in the Whistler and Squamish region. The program had great success in its inception last year, drawing 103 participants from the 13 groups that participated around British Columbia.
"We had a lot of positive feedback from women in their groups who said that they were happy to know that they weren't alone in feeling they had more to learn when it comes to leadership," said Taking the Stage coordinator Jolene Koch. "Being able to network and connect with other women who are also interested in this type of training and who also run small businesses they found that there are a lot of benefits and they really closed in on having a professional network."
The program's sessions are loosely categorized based on theme. The first session will focus on developing the mindset of a leader and the importance of strong leadership. The second will address the power of voice, including what tones are most appropriate for a business setting and which is most effective for presenting yourself successfully. The third session is about scripting - what to say with the voice you choose through powerful word selection and strong messaging. The final session is tailored to general presence, including body language and hand gestures to polish the whole leadership package.
"This is a really great opportunity to access some resources that locals wouldn't otherwise have access to unless they went to Toronto or Vancouver and paid thousands of dollars for the training so it's a fantastic opportunity," continued Douglas. "Regardless of how long they've been in business, everybody can benefit from this training. Our board is taking the training and these are very accomplished entrepreneurs from around the province."
Taking the Stage will be run by Squamish-based certified professional coach and facilitator Jennifer Deane, who has a decade of experience helping individuals and organizations increase effectiveness in the work place.
"It's about empowering women business leaders to step out of their comfort zone and really build their confidence to take their personal leadership to the next level," she said of the sessions. "I don't think we do enough work up front, necessarily, to set ourselves up for success with our key messages. This type of information is typically passed through mentors but to have it in this kind of formalized session we will be able to impact more people faster. I hope this closes the gap a little bit."
Registration for Taking the Stage is open and accessible through the Women's Enterprise Centre www.womensenterprise.ca/mentor/signup-taking-the-stage.php or by calling the head office at 1-800-643-7014. Information on Jennifer Deane can be found at www.jenniferdeane.ca.