Laurel Douglas, the CEO of British Columbia-based Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC) is stepping down from the role after more than 15 years with the organization.
Douglas is set to take on a new undisclosed role in the economic development field, according to the WEC. The organization added that Douglas will end her current tenure in early May.
“Laurel has become a well-respected leader in women’s economic empowerment globally.”
Experienced entrepreneur and WEC board member Jill Earthy is set to step in as interim CEO as the organization searches for a permanent replacement. Earthy joined WEC’s board in 2012 and served as chair from 2016 to 2019. She has previously worked for Futurpreneur Canada, FrontFundr, and Female Funders, and co-founded the WEB Alliance of Women’s Business Networks alongside Douglas in 2009.
“I have had the privilege of collaborating with Laurel Douglas over the past 12 years and she is one of the most humble, effective, collaborative, and passionate leaders I know,” said Earthy. “She is an incredible leader leaving an amazing legacy with WEC, and we can’t wait to see her impact in her next role.”
The WEC is a non-profit organization geared towards helping women in BC lead and grow their own business. It is a member of the Women’s Enterprise Organizations of Canada (WEOC), which entered into a partnership with BDC in 2018, as part of the federal government’s investment in women entrepreneurs and tech. Douglas is also the co-founder and director of the WEOC, which was created in 2011 as the national association to support various Canadians women entrepreneurship organizations.
The WEC provides women entrepreneurs with business loans up to $150,000, with access to an additional $100,000 through the BDC. Founded in 1995, it also offers business skills training, personalized business advice, mentoring, practical business resources, and a broad network. Last year, WEC receive $2.7 million from the regional stream of the Government of Canada’s WES Ecosystem Fund.
“Under Laurel’s leadership since 2004, Women’s Enterprise Centre has become recognized as a leading business resource for women entrepreneurs in BC, and a best practice internationally,” WEC stated. “Over the past fifteen years, WEC loans and business services have helped create or maintain over 3,600 jobs in BC, and have provided over $67 million in direct and leveraged financing to women entrepreneurs, generating over $2 billion in economic activity in the province.”
The organization also noted that last year it provided training and mentoring to over 4,300 women entrepreneurs in 134 communities across the province.
Douglas has been an active member of the BC business and innovation ecosystem, founding a number of her own companies, working in board and advisory capacities, participating in the G20 women’s engagement group, the W20, and from 1997 to 2001 was the executive director of what is now Accelerate Okanagan. In 2019, she was named one of BC Business Magazine’s most influential women in finance.
The WEC noted that Douglas “has become a well-respected leader in women’s economic empowerment globally.”
“Laurel has contributed tremendously to the organization in so many ways,” added Christine Bergeron, WEC board chair and chief member services officer at Vancity. “After 15 years of leading Women’s Enterprise Centre and contributing so very much to the organization, Laurel will, of course, be missed. But we congratulate her on her next chapter.”
“It has been an honour and a privilege to serve WEC, the board, the team, our funders, our volunteers, stakeholders, partners and clients since 2004,” said Douglas. “I’m proud of all that we’ve accomplished, and feel I’m leaving the organization in a strong position.”
Images source WEC