OTTAWA — Across Canada, some 12,700 women business owners are taking on the world and reaping the benefits of going global. But there could be more.
Research shows that women own only 16 percent of all small and medium-sized enterprises in Canada, and only 11 percent of them are active outside of Canada. That means only two percent of small and medium-sized businesses in Canada are both exporting and women-owned or led.
Export Development Canada (EDC) recently announced a new $50 million Women in Trade Investments Program to provide equity capital specifically designed to help Canadian women entrepreneurs. This commitment complements the suite of initiatives EDC previously announced in 2018 to better serve the needs of women-owned and women-led businesses engaged in export.
“Women face unique challenges in the business world, and we’ve seen that equity capital providers are not meaningfully investing in businesses owned or led by women in Canada,” said Mairead Lavery, president and CEO, EDC. “EDC’s new program is the latest in a series of solutions EDC offers to ensure all Canadians have the same opportunities to dream big, be daring and take on the world, regardless of gender.”
Research has shown that advancing women’s equality in Canada has the potential to add $150 billion in incremental gross domestic product by 2026. Beyond helping the economy, offering support at an earlier stage — where many of women-owned and led businesses can stall due to a lack of capital — will also help give more women leaders the opportunity to build their companies and develop expertise in scaling a business.
“Our economy — and our country — can never reach its full potential when we are leaving people behind, including women, Indigenous peoples and other minority groups,” said Minister of International Trade Diversification, Jim Carr.
“Programs like this and the Trade Commissioner Service’s Business Women in International Trade help ensure that women who own and lead businesses, who want to diversify their exports will be able to do so. By making sure that women have the resources they need to thrive, we are putting Canada at the forefront of support for export-ready businesses.”
For this program, EDC will work with women-owned and -led businesses that are strong candidates for significant export growth. The support will come in the form of equity capital through both direct investment and investment in Canadian venture capital funds that demonstrate a commitment to gender diversity on both sides of the entrepreneur/investor table.
“The market clearly has a gap in terms of women accessing capital at the critical commercialization stage, and we want to do more to address this,” said Jennifer Cooke, EDC’s Corporate Lead for Women in Trade.
“For example, we know women entrepreneurs are more likely to access capital when there are women investors on the other side of the table, so we’re seeking fund partners who are also committed to improving gender diversity within their own senior management.”
“EDC’s commitment to the Women in Trade Investments Program aims to advance gender diversity at both the micro and macro levels, reaching not only the individual entrepreneurs but also targeting a segment with enormous growth potential for the Canadian economy,” Lavery said.
For more information on EDC’s commitments to and support for women-owned and led businesses, please visit our Women in Trade page.