by Rebecca Heaton

Petra (P.K.) Mutch is a self-described capacity builder, feminist entrepreneur, and collaborator with 20+ years in the publishing industry. She leads Eve-olution, an innovation oriented consulting company and runs the feminist business magazine, Liisbeth. In 2017, she co-founded the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum to convene, connect and support the rapidly growing entrepreneurial feminist community. Petra is committed to transforming society through leveraging entrepreneurial feminism to change how business operates. Her work is centered on one question: How do we inspire social change and create economic value for both its creator and the ecosystem it serves?

Q: Why is it important to place equity and inclusion and the centre of the entrepreneurial ecosystem?

A: We need entrepreneurs of all genders, class, race, religion, political affiliation, or level of privilege to have an equal opportunity to succeed. Today, we tend to support entrepreneurs and innovators who fit a certain profile. This leaves most women and gender minorities out. We need to work harder to include entrepreneurs who do not draw within current innovation policy, traditional monetary wealth-creating entrepreneurial ecosystem lines. We stand a better chance at realizing and crafting a new reality, context-aligned, healthier world for future generations and my generation too  because I am going to be here another 30 years and want to see a better world as much as any 20 year-old does.

Q: As an active advocate for women, trans and queer entrepreneurs, what is the one piece of advice or insight you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs who face gender-based barriers and want to make a living changing systems—instead of working to succeed within the one we have today?

A: My one piece of advice is to learn that you can’t do it alone and that resilience is key. You need to find your people, partner, share resources, support each other, and work harder to buy from each other. You need to be open, transparent about your goals and aims (this runs counter to mainstream approaches which suggest you keep things close to your chest). Along these lines, an important skill is to be able to map out your ecosystem and develop a dynamic, responsive engagement and value-exchange strategy. You need to also understand how to quantify non-monetary value streams. Without that, you won’t survive.

Q: You’ve said that "alterations to the one-suit-fits-all approach to gender works to oppress, rather than unleash new economic potential." Can you elaborate on this point?

A: Creating programs for women with the same values, curriculum and approach that is being taught to male entrepreneurs doesn’t work. We need to start thinking of (and funding) alternative “values” based innovation and entrepreneurship support programs—incubators or accelerators for enterprises that are not looking for an exit; who do not want venture funding in return for dilution of ownership; who do not want to stop worker owned co-ops, etc. We need to create alternative entrepreneurship programming and funding support options and then let people of any gender self-select into the type of entrepreneurship support they believe will serve them best.

Q: In what ways can corporate Canada become more hospitable to women?

A: Corporate Canada needs to add feminists to their boards; people who are willing to take risks and work to change systems—not just find ways to live more successfully within them. Interestingly, women are flocking to entrepreneurship because our economy and workplaces are not structured to align with women’s lives, stages and realities. They assume that being “their own boss” means less sexism and bias. However, this is not the case—it’s even worse out there when there is no HR person to file a complaint with. They also learn that funding ventures or innovations is not so easy. Sure, you can always get a micro grant of $5-10K to start up, but that gets you a website and a cup of coffee. Entrepreneurs who are more into creating companies that contribute to their local community (i.e. most women)—versus those who create companies with 10x returns exit goals—are less likely to secure growth funding from venture funding communities. This needs to change.

Q: How do we change the narrative on female entrepreneurship and human-centred businesses?

A: We can start by elevating the feminine—all people have both types of traits in varying degrees (which makes us individual) but we tend to devalue the feminine—and exault the masculine. This hurts all genders—not just women. We need to create incubator and accelerator environments that elevate and support, and experiment with feminine approaches to venture design, growth and innovation. We need to start investing in human-centred enterprise growth. Because where money flows, so does interest and attention. We need to bring in feminist thought leaders into innovation spaces—Steve Blank and Al Reis are not the only game in town.

I see the future of entrepreneurship in human-centered economic sectors, and one’s ability to earn a living being tied closely to one’s ability to create or become a loyal member of a shared values and goals aligned ecosystem. The consumer/productivity, gig-based, neo-liberal world we live in now is just a point in our history. It can be different.