Canada announces its $2bn investment in supporting the development of women entrepreneurs
At present, there are over a million small and medium-sized businesses in Canada - and fewer than 16% are women-owned. However, studies show that advancing women's participation in the economy could add up to CAD$150bn to Canada's GDP by 2026.
To advance women's economic empowerment, the Government of Canada has launched the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), a $2bn investment that aims to officially double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025. To reach this goal, the government has officially launched an Expert Panel on Women's Entrepreneurship, which will seek to provide advice and identify opportunities and the challenges that women entrepreneurs face.
Co-chaired by Laura McGee and Danièle Henkel, with members including Shauna Harper, Shannon Pestun, Sharon Zohar, Dr Virginia McGowan, and Maudeleine Myrthil, the panel will also be supported by representatives from the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub and the Business Development Bank of Canada; by the Special Advisor on Scale Up to the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion; and by the work of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.
The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy complements the Government of Canada efforts to advance gender equality by addressing pay equity, introducing more affordable childcare and putting an end to gender-based violence.
"I'm thrilled to announce the Expert Panel on Women's Entrepreneurship. The members' wealth of experience and commitment to advancing women in business will be invaluable to our government as we lead the way on doubling the number of women entrepreneurs by 2025. Increasing women entrepreneurs is not just the right thing to do—it's good for the bottom line,” stated The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion. “It is a strategy that seeks to double the number of women-led businesses by increasing their access to financing, networks and advice. It's a smart investment with an economic and social return."
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Over 200 women-led companies will receive direct funding to help them grow their business. The Government of Canada has recently announced the first 15 successful recipients (out of 200), who are set to receive an investment of up to $100,000 to help them grow their business and reach new export markets. Only 8.4% of majority women-owned SMEs export, compared to 12.8% of majority male-owned SMEs.
The first successful applicants are highlighted below:
Canadian women are starting businesses at a higher rate than their counterparts in all other G20 countries, according to Forbes, where Karen Hughes, a professor at the University of Alberta’s Alberta School of Business and Department of Sociology, and author of the 2015/16 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Canada Report on Women’s Entrepreneurship, has affirmed that “Canada has seen a surge of entrepreneurship in [its] economy over the last 20 years, and women have been at the forefront, launching businesses at rates that often outpace men.”
Understanding that it is not only financial barriers that dissuade women from becoming entrepreneurs, the country has announced its plans to provide up to 40,000 affordable childcare spaces, providing complete choice and flexibility for working parents to share parental leave and childcare responsibilities.
iPolitics recently interviewed Ng, who explained that male entrepreneurs tend to be more successful than women, even when it is the same pitch, word-for-word. “When male entrepreneurs make a pitch for capital, they are successful 58% of the time. When a woman makes the very same pitch, they are successful only 32% of the time,” she says. “Women face unique barriers accessing capital, accessing supply chains, accessing the networks and expertise relative to their male counterparts, and they have a hard time finding the mentorship to help them be successful in their entrepreneurial journey.”
How innovation is transforming government
According to Washington Technology’s Top 100 list, Leidos is the largest IT provider to the government. But as Lieutenant General William J. Bender explains, “that barely scratches the surface” of the company’s portfolio and drive for innovation.
Bender, who spent three and a half decades in the military, including a stint as the U.S. Air Force’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), has seen action in the field and in technology during that time, and it runs in the family. Bender’s son is an F-16 instructor pilot. So it stands to reason Bender Senior intends to ensure a thriving technological base for the U.S. Air Force. “What we’re really doing here is transforming the federal government from the industrial age into the information age and doing it hand-in-hand with industry,” he says.
The significant changes that have taken place in the wider technology world are precisely the capabilities Leidos is trying to pilot the U.S. Air Force through. It boils down to developing cyberspace as a new domain of battle, globally connected and constantly challenged by the threat of cybersecurity attacks.
“We recognize the importance of the U.S. Air Force’s missions,” says Bender, “and making sure they achieve those missions. We sit side-by-side with the air combat command, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance infrastructure across the Air Force. There are multiple large programs where the Air Force is partnering with Leidos to ensure their mission is successfully accomplished 24/7/365. In this company, we’re all in on making sure there’s no drop in capability.”
That partnership relies on a shared understanding of delivering successful national security outcomes, really understanding the mission at hand, and Leidos’ long-standing relationship of over 50 years with the federal government.
To look at where technology is going, Bender thinks it is important to look back at the last 10 to 15 years. “What we’ve seen is a complete shift in how technology gets developed,” he says. “It used to be that the government invested aggressively in research and development, and some of those technologies, once they were launched in a military context, would find their way into the commercial space. That has shifted almost a hundred percent now, where the bulk of the research and development dollars and the development of tech-explicit technologies takes place in the commercial sector.”
“There’s a long-standing desire to adopt commercial technology into defense applications, but it’s had a hard time crossing the ‘valley of death’ [government slang for commercial technologies and partnerships that fail to effectively transition into government missions]. Increasingly we’re able to do that. We need to look at open architectures and open systems for a true plug-and-play capability. Instead of buying it now and trying to guess what it’s going to be used for 12 years from now, it should be evolving iteratively.”