Canadian PM hails Canada-U.S. and Welcomes Council calls for high-profile campaign to encourage women entrepreneurs

The U.S. and Canada should launch a high-profile You Are Ready campaign to encourage women-led entrepreneurship, says the Canada-U.S. Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.

The Council’s third report, titled Attracting Women Entrepreneurs, Encouraging Women to Start Businesses, expresses confidence that such a campaign would boost the two countries’ competitive advantage in the global economy. “We believe that a campaign along the lines of Canada’s Own the Podium program ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver could lay the foundation for a huge increase in the number of female-led global enterprises headquartered in our two countries,” the report says. We need to show the same boldness when it comes to women in business. As part of the campaign, a goal of achieving the highest-ever growth of female-led businesses within 10 years should be set.

The campaign is one of four recommendations proposed by Pillar Three of the Council’s mandate, co-chaired by Dawn Farrell, President and CEO of TransAlta Corporation, and Deborah Gillis, President and CEO of Catalyst. Previous pillars have reported on supporting and growing women owned businesses, and expanding the role of women in science, technology, engineering and math.  

Download the full Pillar Three report here Its recommendations are as follows:

  • A You Are Ready campaign to inspire and bolster confidence of women entrepreneurs
  • Cross-border collaboration through the creation of a Canadian equivalent to the U.S National Women’s Business Council and the U.S. Office of Women’s Business Ownership, and a clear mandate for a linkage between the two countries.
  • Targeted education for women and girls, of all ages, in schools and universities, including greater awareness of the opportunities that entrepreneurship has to offer.
  • A focus on tools and programs to encourage and equip women entrepreneurs to access capital and pursue high growth enterprises.

The report acknowledges the tremendous strides made by women entrepreneurs over the past few decades. Whether measured by number of businesses, revenues, employees or taxes paid, their contribution to the U.S. and Canadian economies has grown phenomenally. According to the latest State of Women-Owned Businesses report, published by American Express, an estimated 11.6 million businesses in the U.S. are at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by one or more women. These firms employ nearly nine million people and generate $1.7 trillion in revenues each year.

But the report notes: “We cannot rest on our laurels. The story of women-owned businesses is one of unrealized potential. While women start businesses at almost the same rate as men, they struggle to turn those ventures into sizeable corporations.” 

Women-owned businesses are generally small, with limited growth prospects, and heavily concentrated in a handful of sectors. Just three sectors — healthcare and social assistance; professional and technical services; and other retail services — make up half of all women-owned businesses.

Vast opportunities remain for women to start and lead more high-growth businesses with national and global ambitions. A high priority should be to expand the presence of women-owned businesses in sectors that are set to dominate the emerging digital economy, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and the internet of things.

The report underlines the importance of encouraging girls — of all ages — to take an interest in entrepreneurship. “Only by acquiring an entrepreneurial mindset from an early age will girls gain the vision and the tools needed to savor fully the risks and rewards of setting up, running and expanding their own businesses,” it says.

“The evidence is striking,” said Mrs. Farrell. “Women are proven business leaders in small and mid-sized business. Canada and the U.S. can make much better use of their competitive instincts, skills and entrepreneurial spirit to accelerate economic growth and prosperity. Imagine the power in attracting, engaging and inspiring a generation of confident women leaders, armed with their personal vision and the tools for success.” 

Ms. Gillis added: “Research proves there is a strong economic advantage to having more women in leadership roles in the workforce. Women-owned businesses are already creating and or maintaining millions of jobs in the U.S. and Canada, with an economic impact of trillions of dollars for both countries. It’s time to create equal entrepreneurial opportunities for everybody in the communities we live in and serve. It’s not just good for business, it’s good for society: for women, men, families, communities, and economies.”

The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, issued the following statement to welcome the third report from the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders:

“I am pleased to welcome today the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders‘ third report, which explores how we can encourage more women to start their own businesses and to pursue high growth enterprises.

“As highlighted in the report, if we want to better support women entrepreneurs, we need to address the challenges they face, including difficulty accessing capital, finding meaningful mentorship opportunities, and a lack of contacts with large buyers.

“I thank the Council for their recommendations, including campaigns to promote and inspire women entrepreneurs, provide better access to data, implement more tools and programs to support women pursuing high growth firms, and reduce gender biases faced by women entrepreneurs.

“With women starting close to half of all new businesses in Canada, it’s clear that supporting women entrepreneurs is essential to growing Canada’s economy. Budget 2018 puts gender equality at the centre – including through a new Women Entrepreneurship Strategy – because we know that women’s success is vital to growing our economy and strengthening the middle class.

“Women-led businesses are key to boosting our economic growth and creating more good, well-paying jobs. Working with our partners like the United States, Canada will ensure women entrepreneurs succeed.”


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