Status of Women Canada Ministerial Transition Book
Women Entrepreneurs

Background

Women entrepreneurs make significant contributions to the Canadian economy, but are underrepresented as a proportion of business owners and face challenges growing their businesses. RBC Economics estimates that women entrepreneurs were responsible for an aggregate contribution of $148 billion in economic activity in 2011. In addition, women-owned businesses currently employ an estimated 1.5 million Canadians. However, as of 2011, only 15.5% of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) were majority owned by women. Women-owned SMEs exhibit lower growth rates and are less likely to export than those owned by men. Women are also less likely to apply for financing from lending institutions than men. Based on existing research, three overarching challenges for women entrepreneurs are: access to capital, access to markets (both domestic and international); and access to networks, mentors and champions.

The potential of women-owned businesses to contribute to the Canadian economy is recognized by the corporate sector. In November 2014, BMO announced it was making an additional $2 billion in credit available over the next three years to support the growing number of women entrepreneurs in Canada.

Current Status

In March 2015, Status of Women Canada (SWC) hosted the Women Entrepreneurs Forum: Investing in the Future. The Forum brought together over 350 Canadian women entrepreneurs, business networks, federal partners and other key stakeholders for a program focused on providing Canadian women entrepreneurs with the practical tools, networks and connections they need to reach their full growth potential.

SWC with federal partners has been undertaking a series of actions to support women entrepreneurs and to help connect women with the tools they need to succeed in business and leverage existing funding. For example, the Business Development Bank of Canada is making $700 million available over three years to finance women-owned businesses. Budget 2015 included a new investment of $350,000 over three years to SWC (2014/15-2017/18) to support:

Over the last year, SWC has coordinated women’s trade missions to Sao Paulo, Brazil and to the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council National Conference and Business Fair in Austin, Texas. Discussions were also held on supplier diversity, which encourages the use of historically underutilized businesses, including those owned by women, as suppliers. SWC works in collaboration with Industry Canada (IC) and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), the federal leads on business development and international trade.

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