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The three facets of my mission: digital transformation, international trade and women entrepreneurs



As a entrepreneur involved in international trade, I’m often asked to speak on panels, at conferences and for business schools all over the world. The three topics I most often speak about are digital transformation, women in entrepreneurship, and international trade. Recently I realized that for me, all three are connected in a way that’s hard to pull apart. I see them as all being facets of the same overarching project!


I believe that women entrepreneurs are some of the most creative, visionary business people operating in the world today, with the willingness to take exciting risks, and with keen insights into what people need and how to meet those needs.


Traditionally, women have had a difficult time making inroads into the business world, but today that’s changing. One of the ways we are changing that is through digital. The digital world has democratized access to basically everything about business: knowledge, planning and project management tools, collaboration with teams near and far, and of course, sales platforms and interaction with clients and customers. With so much business taking place online, it’s much easier and versatile for women to launch, maintain and expand businesses. We no longer need special access to the boys’ club or inherited wealth in order to become successful. And we create our own clubs.


The power of digital, in turn, is also directly useful in navigating international trade, which today is more complex than ever. Canadian businesses have classically done most of their exporting to the United States. Given the current political situation with our neighbours down south, as well as Brexit and other major international political shifts, we’re looking at serious changes in how business works. Factor in the gigantic impacts of climate change, which are affecting the landscape (literal and figurative) at an unprecedented pace, and we have the makings of true instability. No longer can we afford to have all our eggs in one basket! The current state of international trade is affecting everyday people’s lives to an extent never before seen.


In response to this, among other things, government entities are encouraging Canadian businesses to diversify their exportation and create new business ties with other countries. As well, the business world in general is working hard to figure out how to adapt to new circumstances while keeping a competitive edge in a market filled with demanding, savvy, cynical customers who are a click away from taking their business elsewhere.


In this business context, it’s absolutely crucial for businesses to embrace digital transformation. Digital transformation is not simply bringing in new technology to help manage your existing business model. It’s a total rethinking of how business should work, starting from the premise that borders are porous, time zones can be crossed in a click, services need to be digitally connected and accessible 24/7 in order to best meet customers’ needs, and the best people for your teams may be operating in different cities or countries and need a way to connect to one another. All these factors add up to a radically different business landscape than we were dealing with thirty years ago, when many of today’s top executives were entering their fields. They essentially have to learn entirely new approaches in order to keep up.


So where does that leave us? Well, you can see how these three topics tie together. Digital transformation is key to business success in today’s world; this is particularly true because international trade is in a state of major upheaval requiring us to think on our feet and react quickly; and women are at the forefront of digital entrepreneurship, which means we’re well placed to usher in these changes.


In short, this is the era of the digital woman entrepreneur. I’m proud to be part of this wave of change and I support and mentor women who are joining me in it. There’s an old curse that goes, “May you live in exciting times.” Well, the times are pretty exciting right now worldwide. But I think that together, by lifting up women entrepreneurs and embracing digital transformation, we can turn that curse into a blessing!