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Women in Focus: Cheryl McNicol

Women in Focus: Cheryl McNicol

Gender parity remains elusive

Justin Trudeau famously declared after his election in October that half his cabinet was made up of women “because it’s 2015.” But as pleasantly obvious as that sounded, the prime minister is still far ahead of the social curve in respect to women, according to one local business expert.

“Even though we’ve seen some positive movement towards gender parity over the last few decades, we still have a long way to go,” said Sunshine Coast small business start-up specialist Cheryl McNicol.

“Just look around at the management teams and board members of our major employers on the Coast, as well as our local government. There are definitely fewer women in key leadership roles than men,” McNicol told the Local in an interview. “There is a high proportion of our workforce here on the Coast who are self-employed and about one-third of them are women. They are making a major contribution to the economy on the Sunshine Coast, yet not many people know about it.”

McNicol said equality and parity principles are best cultivated in the home.

“Women have an opportunity to educate and influence the children and men in their lives about the importance of paying men and women the same amount for the same work and about exploring non-traditional career options,” said McNicol.

When asked if women were often motivated to start their own businesses because of workplace gender issues, she acknowledged that some do go that route because they’ve hit the proverbial glass ceiling elsewhere.

“Even though we are working very hard to accomplish our goals and get ahead, that next level of leadership eludes us. Many of my clients over the years have been in this situation and that’s why they come to me for help in building that dream business.”

McNicol added, however, that there are other reasons why women make that choice.

“You get to follow your passion and create a business doing what you love to do. People also often think that they will work fewer hours and have more time flexibility. Most of the time that really doesn’t happen.”

McNicol, president of the Self-Employed Women’s Network (SEWN), is also now managing a project called “Connecting Self-employed Women for Success,” funded by Status of Women Canada and operated by the Community Resource Centre.

“This project is building on the work from the Progress Plan, which explored the challenges that women face in our community and mapped out actions that would create long lasting positive change. We are working in partnership with local government and community organizations to improve the economic well-being of women on the Sunshine Coast,” she said.

“One of the action items that we hope to implement is to gather a team of people who are currently working in non-traditional roles and have them speak about the benefit to children and young adults in the school system, and at community events where parents and grandparents congregate. We need to start somewhere.”

Rik Jespersen

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