Report reveals widespread impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented entrepreneurs

women in tech

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, eighty-five percent of underrepresented entrepreneurs in Canada have experienced a loss in revenue, contracts, and cash flow, according to a new survey from the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce (CanWCC) and Dream Legacy Foundation.

“It’s critical that every level of government includes the voices and experiences of all business owners.”

The survey heard from 300 entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups across the country, including women, minorities, and business founders with disabilities. The organizations said the goal for the survey is to keep policymakers informed of the impact of the pandemic as marginalization can worsen during times of crisis.

“With the onset of COVID-19 we’ve been able to respond quickly alongside CanWCC to engage underrepresented communities, hear about their experiences and advocate to centre their voices,” said Isaac Olowolafe, founder of the Dream Legacy Foundation.

For women and minority entrepreneurs, who already receive less funding than their male counterparts, keeping businesses afloat and employees on the payroll is now an even greater challenge, CanWCC said. During this time, groups like the Women’s Enterprise Centre have implemented free advisory services and loan concessions to support women-owned and women-led businesses.

For the six million Canadians with a disability, measures aimed to fight COVID-19 have posed certain challenges, such as isolating from their families, a lack of support with some day-to-day tasks, and greater fears around becoming infected.

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Seventy-two percent of the underrepresented entrepreneurs surveyed said they faced confusion or uncertainty around which government benefits they would be eligible for. The federal government is beginning to open applications for employee and business relief programs, but these programs have been met with criticism from the business community due to unclear eligibility requirements.

Last week, the federal government appointed an advisory group to oversee accessibility issues and many provinces have implemented support programs for those with disabilities, although no specific measures have been introduced for entrepreneurs with disabilities. Similarly, although most of the federal government’s relief programs are available to women-led or minority-led businesses, there are no programs tailored specifically to these groups.

Just over half (54 percent) of entrepreneurs surveyed by CanWCC and Dream Legacy Foundation said they are experiencing mental and physical health issues related to the pandemic, and 41 percent of those people said they were responsible for children or other family members.

The goal for the survey is to keep policymakers informed of the impact of the pandemic.

Many businesses have taken notice of the mental health impact of COVID-19, and some have developed new offerings to combat this problem. Think Research, for example, partnered with the Ontario Psychological Association (OPA) this month to increase access so more psychologists could use virtual care to help patients.

Canadian startups across the board are feeling the effects of the pandemic and the subsequent economic lockdown. A recent report found that 58 percent of startups in Canada say their industry has been “affected significantly” by the COVID-19 crisis, which is seven percentage points higher than the global average.

Another report from the Business Development Bank of Canada found that 90 percent of Canadian entrepreneurs continue to feel the impact of the pandemic.

The survey by CanWCC and Dream Legacy Foundation will be used by the organizations to form recommendations to government policymakers.

“It’s critical that every level of government includes the voices and experiences of all business owners, founders, and entrepreneurs when drafting policy and allocating financial support in this challenging and uncertain time,” said Nancy Wilson, CEO and founder of CanWCC.

Image source Unsplash. Photo by WoC in Tech.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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