Open Access Government places Canada’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy under the spotlight
Canada’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) seeks nothing less than women playing an equal and complete part in the economy. In the view of the Government of Canada, it is indeed both the right and the smart thing to do.
Research demonstrates that women participating in the economy and advancing gender equality in Canada might add up to $150 billion in GDP. “Only 17% of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are owned by women, and the Government of Canada is working to change that,” we hear.
WES represents almost $7 billion in commitments and investments, the Government of Canada states. “WES aims to increase women-owned businesses’ access to the financing, talent, networks and expertise they need to start up, scale up and access new markets,” the Government of Canada explains. For example, the WES Inclusive Women Venture Capital Initiative finances projects that build and make stronger a “more inclusive venture capital environment” for women in Canada. (1)
The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy ecosystem fund
On International Women’s Day 2023 in March, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development, gave details about financing recipients thanks to the WES Ecosystem Fund, within the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy.
We hear that eight projects as part of round 1 of the Ecosystem Fund have the green light to give business acceleration support, entrepreneurship training, mentorship opportunities and networking, and assist underserved and diverse women throughout Canada to achieve their sought-after business goals. Under round 2, the focus is very much on the retail and service sectors and care economy, giving scope in remote and rural areas and the north.
Did you know that the WES Ecosystem Fund, during its lifetime, has assisted at least 10,000 women in beginning new businesses and over 12,000 in increasing their existing ones? However, challenges remain in gaining access to capital; recipients will develop projects that tackle this concern head-on.
The Honourable Mary Ng says this is a moment to celebrate the remarkable achievements and talents of women we hear. It was also a time to remember the tangible action of the Government of Canada to ensure that each woman stands up and is counted.
“Time and again, Canadian women have proven themselves to be hard-working and dedicated entrepreneurs, yet many still face barriers to achieving their entrepreneurship dreams. Today’s announcement marks another big step toward ending gender bias and helping women from all walks of life bring their talents and skills to market for the benefit of all Canadians.”
Jenna Sudds, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, added that the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund announcement is excellent news for women in Canada who are entrepreneurs. “We know that supporting women-led companies is creating a more inclusive economy, one that could add billions to Canada’s GDP. Behind these big numbers are inspiring stories of lives being changed at the local level. This demonstrates what can happen when we unlock women’s entrepreneurship potential. When women succeed, we all succeed.” (2)
Women helping with post-COVID recovery
It’s interesting to note that small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly women-led ones, can help strengthen the economy in a post-COVID world. For example, WES Ecosystem Fund projects are assisting in the move to “close service gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem for women, particularly in areas such as mentorship, networking and skills development,” we heard in July 2022.
Support for Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund strengthens previous Canadian Government efforts since 2015 that support women, like funding entrepreneurs during COVID-19, legislating pay equity and including gender-based analysis into the work of Government.
I read with interest Minister Ng’s broader comments about supporting women entrepreneurs and why her Government is committed to this crucial policy area.
“Women are powerhouse entrepreneurs and business owners, and supporting them is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do for our economy. Our government is committed to removing systemic barriers and empowering women entrepreneurs and business owners so they can grow, expand and create more jobs in communities across Canada.”
Navigating the path for women entrepreneurs
Government of Canada funding for women entrepreneurs plays a vital role in the continuing work to navigate an inclusive, sustainable and robust economic recovery plus, of course, “to level the playing field,” as the Minister succinctly puts it, the perfect note to end this discussion on. (3)
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