Female entrepreneurs across Edmonton are empowering one another to challenge male-dominated work spaces at an all-women's networking circle.
Known as Womanition, the group of business women has been supporting gender equality in entrepreneurship for almost 20 years.
The Womanition network has united hundreds of women across Edmonton, and the group continues to run meetings twice a month – helping veterans and newcomers build friendships and business relationships alike.
Many members say the group was a safe haven during their early stages of self-employment.
"Coming into business for the first time on your own, being an entrepreneur, being self-employed is just really scary," said Donna Worthington, a financial planner and founding member of Womanition.
"There's lots of support out there. You just have to network and ask for help."
Nearly two decades ago, Worthington started her own financial planning business after years of working as a registered nurse.
According to Worthington, the career switch forced her to compete with men for the first time in her life. She said that women held only around 13 per cent of financial jobs at the time.
To combat the loneliness of being a new business owner, Worthington said she decided to found Womanition with a few friends more than 17 years ago.
"We just started out with a handful of women and now it's grown to hundreds," she said at the latest gathering on Tuesday.
"I joined the networking group so that I could learn from other women in business, and not only have I learned a lot from other women, but I also made many friends through these last years."
Worthington said she plans on coming to more Womanition events across Edmonton even after she retires to stay in touch with friends.
Building businesses where women thrive
For Cassandra Bauman, joining a network of women seemed natural because she said she wanted to feel empowered as an entrepreneur in trades.
Bauman quit her last job in 2016 after her employer told her to stop hiring women.
Instead of taking their advice, Bauman said she decided to use her trade skills to start Off the Wall Painting and Decorating, an Edmonton-based painting group.
"When you work for someone else, that reputation belongs to someone else. I left with knowledge, but I didn't leave with a reputation," she said.
That same year, Bauman said she joined Womanition to get support with building a women-led company.
"Men have more time to drop their families and focus on work, whereas women really don't have that and it's really hard to compete," Bauman said.
"I've been trying to create a work environment that nurtures women's and mothers' mental health and need to be at home."
Since joining the networking circle, Bauman has hired a team dominated by women.
When driving to events like the gathering on Tuesday, Bauman said she has to hold back tears because she's thrilled to share her passion for gender equality with a room full of entrepreneurs.
'Women can do whatever we want to do'
Theresa Stanley joined Womanition in September of 2018, and has been an active member ever since.
As a taekwondo coach and the founder of Girls on Fire Confidence Workshops, she said she's always looking for new ways to empower women.
When she started taekwondo as a young girl, Stanley said there weren't many women in the sport. She had three role models who kept her inspired – and now, it's her goal to do the same for rising female talent.
"Everything that we do here … breaking glass ceilings and making the decision that women can do whatever we want to do, it helps girls behind us also believe that same thing," Stanley said.
"I look up to a lot of the women here."
Dorothy Turek, a facilitator at Equine Assisted Learning, said she's met many business connections through Womanition.
On the weekend of Aug. 27, Turek hosted a retreat for women who struggle with their weight loss journeys alongside Dr. Michelle Tubman, another Womanition member.
The retreat combined Dr. Tubman's mindset techniques and Turek's connection with horses for promoting mental wellbeing.
"The variety of the entrepreneurs … it's just phenomenal," Turek said.
"Check out the camaraderie of this group. It's amazing, everybody helps you."