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Empowering women through social enterprise

  • Communications
  • |
  • Feb 23, 2016
Empowering women through social enterprise

Amanda Armstrong, HBA '10, Textbooks for Change

The speakers at Ivey’s Social Enterprise Fair had a few traits in common.

They all shared captivating stories on why they chose careers in social enterprise. They were all high energy, enthusiastic, and passionate about their jobs.

And beyond that, they were all women.

The event, designed to introduce Ivey students to the unique career path of social enterprise, hosted four speakers from three organizations: Amanda Armstrong, an HBA ‘10 grad from Textbooks for Change, Sonja Fernandes from Ezzy Lynn, and Colleen Lindemann and Tonia Richardson from Coupons for Hunger.

A twist on business traditions

Now in its second year, the Fair brought out some students who were unfamiliar with social enterprise. Armstrong began her presentation by explaining what exactly a social enterprise is: a for-profit business that has a mission for social good at its core.

Returning to Ivey to speak with current students was something Armstrong felt strongly about. She’s always enthusiastic to shed light on a career path that’s outside of the traditional four – accounting, finance, marketing, and consulting.

“I’m a big believer in having people share their stories, mentorship, and inspiration,” Armstrong said. “And mentorship not just from above you, but peer-to-peer, as well. It’s important for us recent, young graduates to go back and talk to students.”

Fernandes, who studied philosophy at Huron College, sees events like the Social Enterprise Fair as a chance for students to hear about opportunities outside of what they learn in the classroom.

“These events enable students to think about business differently, through real stories and companies,” she said.

Case in point: Amy Zhou. A current HBA2 student, Zhou began her Ivey education unsure of where she wanted to end up. Resources like the Social Enterprise Fair, and Professor Oana Branzei’s Social Enterprise class, helped her find her way.

“I completely changed career tracks,” she said. “I’m now pursuing the Certificate in Entrepreneurship. Social enterprise is really the best of both worlds – nonprofit and for-profit.”

Women inspiring women

Fernandes discovered her passion for social enterprise through Western Propel. At the time, there weren’t many female students in the start-up space. The Ezzy Lynn team says that the lack of women was their biggest motivator to create their own venture.

“We are all about empowering women,” Fernandes said. “Strong female leaders have inspired us and we can only hope to be that same inspiration for other young women.”

Armstrong hopes to combat the gender gap in business by supporting and encouraging women. Providing role models and mentors for young women is important, she said, and helping them develop confidence is crucial to success.

Inspired to show off some of Ivey’s female role models, Zhou, a Co-President of the Women in Management Club, is now in the process of interviewing successful alumnae and sharing their stories online.

“Women are typically under-represented in the business world and in start-up companies,” Armstrong said. “Initiatives like this are important. We need to showcase all the women who are already doing awesome things in leadership positions.”