Arlene Dickinson’s advice for women in business

I got to sit down with Arlene Dickinson, from CBC’s Dragon’s Den, who shared her thoughts on how entrepreneurs attain success, why it’s okay to be emotional in business and why stay-at-home moms have a lot of skills to offer the business world.

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CBC's Dragon's Den, Arlene Dickinson
Courtesy of CBC

A few months back, I was invited to the set of CBC’s Dragon’s Den to get a sneak peek of the upcoming season. Afterwards, I got to sit down with one of my favourite dragons, Arlene Dickinson, who shared her thoughts on how entrepreneurs attain success, why it’s okay to be emotional in business and why stay-at-home moms have a lot of skills to offer the business world.

Q: As an entrepreneur, how do you keep yourself motivated?
A: All entrepreneurs struggle with self-doubt. When you’re an entrepreneur it’s easy to question your ability to do stuff and you constantly ask yourself, “Can I do it?” And that keeps you motivated because you’re always pushing yourself, always trying to see what you can do and to prove yourself. Self-doubt generates the motivation to prove to yourself that you can do it. Another motivation is fear – fear of failure. On one hand you’re scared and on the other hand you’re excited beyond belief. Entrepreneurs have the ability to push beyond the fear and to say, “I can do this.”

Q: What advice do you have for entrepreneurial women?
A: Right now, I’m feeling very encouraged about women’s ability to think of their own experiences as being relevant to business, especially if you’ve been a stay-at-home mom going back into the workplace. The learning that you’ve acquired at home used to be labeled and seen as less valuable. Today, we understand that it’s an amazing training ground for business. We are becoming more proud of an in-tune with what we are learning at home in terms of balancing household budgets, people, emotions and competing interests – and we are taking that into business.

Women who are in business should stop trying to butt up against and compete with men. I think we now recognize that women make decisions differently – and that it’s okay to be emotional in business. Business is highly emotional and energizing – people will follow you anywhere if they are emotionally engaged with you. We need to celebrate our differences with men.

Q: Women are still earning less than men in the workplace. What should we be doing to change that?
A: The big mistake is not asking for more. I think we still undervalue ourselves and are grateful to have a job. But you need to know what others, including men, are being paid for doing the same job and to know your value. Nobody is going to grant you a new salary: you will get what you get if you don’t ask for more. If an employer is going to pay a man more for doing the exact same job as you then you shouldn’t work there.