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."
- Click here to read the March edition of Canada Business Chief
- The Canadian government unveils Better Buying initiatives to increase efficiency across $22bn of annual spending
- The Canadian government invests $40mn, saves over 2,100 steel jobs
- Transforming the boardroom: inspiring women in STEM
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.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.