The McKinsey Institute states that increasing the economic empowerment of women could add $150 billion to Canada’s GDP. However, although Canada’s small and medium-sized enterprises account for the vast majority—99.8%—of the country’s businesses, only 16% of them are majority women-owned.
Women-led businesses often face unique barriers in accessing capital, large contracts and buyers, talent, networks, mentorship and expertise.
This is why the Government of Canada is helping women-owned and -led businesses through a variety of programs.
Innovation.canada.ca is a helpful tool for women-led businesses looking for government programs to help them grow and access new markets. Launched last year, the web portal is a one-stop shop for government programs and services to help entrepreneurs at every stage of their business growth. With over 1,000 resources from federal, provincial and territorial governments, the platform can help you find funding, tax credits, advice and more—all in one place.
While women-owned and -run businesses can benefit from any number of programs and services available through innovation.canada.ca, they can also find programs specifically tailored to them.
In 2018, the Government of Canada launched the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), a $2-billion whole-of-government plan to double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025 by facilitating their access to financing, talent, networks and expertise. This includes funding available directly to women entrepreneurs through the Women Entrepreneurship Fund to help them grow their businesses and facilitate their pursuit of opportunities in markets abroad. To date, more than 200 applications have been approved for funding, and more recipients will be announced over the coming weeks.
In addition, the WES Ecosystem Fund provides funding to not-for-profit organizations to strengthen capacity within the entrepreneurship ecosystem and close gaps in services for women entrepreneurs, including addressing the needs of diverse and under-represented women.
Other programs under the Strategy include the following:
- The Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, which supports access to knowledge, data and best practices for women entrepreneurs. Spearheaded by Ryerson University, the Hub will create a one-stop shop to which women entrepreneurs, women support organizations, governments, and the private sector can turn for information on all issues related to women entrepreneurship.
- The Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative, which aims to improve financing opportunities for women and under-represented groups, in particular by dedicating a portion of funds to enhancing diversity and increasing women’s participation in the venture capital ecosystem.
- The Business Women in International Trade program, which helps women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses explore potential trade opportunities in international markets.
- Farm Credit Canada’s Women Entrepreneur Program, which helps women entrepreneurs in the agri-food sector find financial support.
These are just some of the programs available for women entrepreneurs and business owners. Innovation.canada.ca is a good place to find additional government programs and services that meet their needs.