Behind many of Airdrie’s amazing businesses are amazing women.
Last fall, for the first time, all four winners of the Airdrie Business Awards were female. And according to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, between 2001 and 2011 the number of self-employed women jumped by 23 per cent, compared to 14 per cent for men.
The Airdrie Women in Business Association (AWBA) is riding the wave, providing its members with access to networking, support and business-growth opportunities.
“We’re here to promote, inspire and support women in business,” says AWBA president Jayne Kirby, a financial advisor with Edward Jones.
Members range from small-business entrepreneurs to those working for large corporations. Through its partnerships with the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce and Airdrie Economic Development and involvement in such programs as SMARTstart and Go Girl, the association promotes personal and professional development, community support, business growth and community awareness of women in business.
“Something like SMARTstart might give them more hard business skills … we offer the more personal as well as professional support,” says Kirby. “Women talk about things in different ways than men do … talking through things is how we process information and how we come to make decisions. So to have a group of women who have been there before, or are in a similar place, is valuable.”
AWBA has undergone some changes since Kirby – who came to Airdrie two years ago from Victoria – became president, including revamping terms for its directors allowing better continuity and planning, and rejigging membership terms. There are currently about 40 members, but the number fluctuates, Kirby says.
AWBA vice-president Michelle Watson, transportation manager for the Wal-Mart Perishable Distribution Centre in Balzac, joined a year ago, and she enjoys the fact AWBA is not an exclusive club.
“We have everyone from home-based to professional women,” she says. “We want to do business with everyone within Airdrie … we don’t want to exclude anybody.”