June 10, 2020
Canadian women entrepreneurship is key to the economic and social success of Canada. Although women make up approximately 51% of the population, according to a 2019 report by the Business Development Bank of Canada ("BDC"), women comprise only 28% of all entrepreneurs in Canada. Other studies show that on average, women founders earn 58% less revenue than their male counterparts who run similar businesses, and have raised just 4% of venture capital funding available in the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women entrepreneurs in Canada by aggravating systemic barriers that women face in starting and growing businesses. COVID-19 has severely affected sectors like retail, hospitality and food services, where women entrepreneurs are most present. In addition, many women business owners still bear a disproportionate share of domestic work, caregiving, childcare and eldercare.
To address this disproportionate impact, and as a response to a number of entrepreneurship organizations urging the federal government to support underrepresented entrepreneurs, on May 16, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that it is providing $15 million in support to women entrepreneurs through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy ("WES"). The money will go directly to selected organizations that are currently WES Ecosystem Fund recipients to enable these organizations to support women entrepreneurs facing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new funding supplements the existing $85 million that the Federal Government allocated to the WES Ecosystem Fund as part of the 2018 federal budget.
According to the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, Mary Ng, the $15 million will assist with business workshops, mentorship opportunities and job training to help women entrepreneurs adapt to a predominately digital marketplace in the COVID-19 business landscape. Ng stated, "Women business owners and entrepreneurs are facing unique difficulties during these challenging and uncertain times. Our government is taking action to give women entrepreneurs much-needed support so they can keep their businesses open and get through this crisis. We will continue to be there for women business owners—and all small businesses—to help them all the way through the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Author: Rebecca Ro