The PARO Center for Women’s Enterprise

There is a saying “Behind every successful man there is a woman supporting him.” But who supports a woman to be successful? This was a question Rosalind Lockyer asked in 1995 that started the PARO Center for Women’s Enterprise.

At first glance PARO is a non-profit that helps get small business loans and grants for the women they serve. Which it is, but its purpose goes much deeper “There are so many things to challenge women in society” Rosalind commented. “because the systems were not built to build up women.” The PARO CEO saw women stuck in dire situations, with no means to get out of them. “We ask the women what they need and what they want.” What she found was they needed other people to believe in them and a place to learn skills and build self-worth.


“(You have to be) looking at the whole person. If they don’t have the confidence and the empowerment, they also don’t have the social supports that they need, and they won’t have the wellbeing of mental and physical to do all the other things.”

To that end PARO’s difference is in its peer lending circles and mentoring programs. Designed to be a long term sustainable (there are groups still running from 1995) and easy to create, it is a network of peer and mentor support for women to reach out to when the storms of life and business happen.

Rosalind proudly recalls the many women that have come up to her and said, “I formed the circle to get the loan, get the grant, but what I appreciate the most is the peer support the networking, the mentoring, someone to celebrate with, someone to talk to when I have a crisis and working together in the community to do some good.” She beams. “All of these things are things that help break down the barriers for women.”


“Now we are the largest women’s run peer lending network in North America.” Rosalind states proudly. “WE have 179 circles in Ontario and there are always new circles forming.”

Being a part of those circles also means giving back. “Part of what we expect you to do is to help other women… we call them proud PARO women” Says Rosalind.

This ever-expanding network of women helping women has also given Rosalind a unique opportunity on a provincial and even global scale. In 2018 she was invited to accept the “International Woman of the Decade for Community Leadership” award and speak at the Women’s Economic Forum in New Delhi India. She helped redefine the Indian governments definition of funding for grants to women starting businesses so the money could get into the hands that needed it most. When asked how it felt she smiles. “It was surreal. …My priority is improving life for women and helping them build a sustainable livelihood.” Rosalind is also actively influencing business policies here in Canada as well. She is currently a member of the Gender Equality Network of Canada, which was given a three-year mandate to advance gender equality in Canada.

Now we can say, behind every successful woman there is a network of women all working with her. Behind every successful woman there are people like Rosalind Lockyer and the growing network of programs that PARO offers. Rosalind sums it up best,


“(When) we are strong, we help the community, we help each other, and we are building good businesses that (is) helping the community.”

You can find out more about PARO and their services, programs, and upcoming events by visiting: