Canadian government commits $15 million in COVID-19 support to women entrepreneurs

The Government of Canada has committed $15 million in new capital to support women entrepreneurs amid the ongoing economic crisis brought on by COVID-19.

The $15 million comes in the form of additional capital for Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund organizations. The funding will go directly to select organizations that are currently WES Ecosystem Fund recipients. The new investment is meant to help women entrepreneurs across the country navigate the current climate.

“COVID-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in our social and economic systems and demonstrated it has a gendered impact.”

The government stated the $15 million will help thousands of women entrepreneurs and business owners navigate COVID-19 in the coming weeks.

Minister of Small Business Mary Ng, who is responsible for the WES, provided more details on the $15 million at today’s noon ministers briefing.
 

The minister noted that the idea is to offer targeted support to organizations that are dedicated to supporting women business owners. The funding will help support business workshops, mentorship opportunities, and skills training to help women entrepreneurs adapt to a digital marketplace, she said.

The WES Ecosystem Fund is one part of the federal government’s $2 billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy. The fund invests in organizations that support women entrepreneurs.

The overall WES program also includes the Women Entrepreneurship Fund, which invests in women-led businesses; the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, which offers data and best practices for women entrepreneurs; and the WES Expert Panel, which advises on issues around solving gaps in services and supports for women entrepreneurs in Canada.

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The government allocated $85 million directly to the WES Ecosystem Fund as part of the Budget 2018. That capital was divvied up into more than 50 projects led by non-profit organizations that are inclusive of the needs of diverse and under-represented women. Prior to today’s additional capital, the WES Ecosystem Fund was no longer accepting applications.

Minister Ng highlighted the affect COVID-19 has had on women entrepreneurs, noting, “women business owners and entrepreneurs are facing unique difficulties during these challenging and uncertain times.”

“COVID-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in our social and economic systems and demonstrated it has a gendered impact,” Shannon Pestun, director of Women’s Entrepreneurship Business at ATB and WES panel member, told BetaKit. “COVID-19 has revealed women entrepreneurs are particularly vulnerable because of several factors: they tend to run smaller businesses, are less capitalized, and are heavily concentrated in the service sector. On top of that, many women are now shouldering child-care as a result of school closures and elder care in this time of isolation and social distancing.”

The $15 million for the fund comes after a number of entrepreneurship organizations across Canada urged the federal government to implement support specifically for underrepresented entrepreneurs.

A recent survey by the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce (CanWCC) and Dream Legacy Foundation found that 85 percent of underrepresented entrepreneurs reported having lost contracts, customers, or revenue during the crisis.

Along with their report, the two organizations also released policy recommendations for all levels of government, calling for emergency funding tailored to the needs of various underrepresented founder groups.

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According to a Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) report from 2019, women account for 28 percent of all entrepreneurs in Canada. Other studies show that, on average, these founders earn 58 percent less than their male counterparts. Although women make up 51 percent of the population in Canada, last year, they raised just four percent of venture capital funding available.

“The Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy, a $2 billion dollar investment aims to double the number of women-led companies by 2025. COVID-19 not only jeopardizes this goal, but also threatens to undo many of the advances we’ve made over the past few years to increase women’s entrepreneurship in Canada,” said Pestun. “It has never been more important to ensure a gender lens is applied to managing the impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian business landscape but on the recovery as well.”

Image source World Economic Forum via Flickr

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Associate Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.