Task Force Calls for Sweeping Policy Changes To Drive the Economic
Contribution of Women Entrepreneurs
OTTAWA, ON, Oct. 29 /CNW/ - The Prime
Minister's Task Force on Women Entrepreneurs released
its report today, calling on the federal government to create
a new Office of Women's Business Ownership and to expand its
programs for women entrepreneurs across Canada. The Task Force
recommends that women entrepreneurs have improved access to
financial support as well as government procurement and export
opportunities. It asks the government to grant
maternity benefits to entrepreneurs and to support more research
on women entrepreneurs and women's entrepreneurship.
The Task Force, created at the request of the Prime Minister
in November 2002, heard from more than a thousand woman entrepreneurs
across the country. Its report documents that there are more
than 821,000 women entrepreneurs in Canada, who annually contribute
in excess of $18 billion to Canada's economy.
Their numbers have increased more than 200% over the past 20
years and today, they represent the fastest growing sector in
our economy. Yet, women entrepreneurs continue to encounter
unique obstacles in achieving business success. "Advancing
the contributions of women entrepreneurs is critical to Canada's
economic growth and key to our country's small business strategy.
Women build companies that create jobs and wealth for themselves
and others," said Task Force Chair, Sarmite Bulte, M.P.
(Parkdale-High Park). "Their significant and growing impact
on Canada's economy must be acknowledged. Their unique challenges
must be addressed through programs and opportunities tailored
to their specific needs."
Bulte called on women entrepreneurs to partner with government
in securing widespread support for the Task Force's recommendations.
Specifically, these recommendations include:
1. The establishment of an Office of Women's Business Ownership
linked to a government department with key business-related
responsibilities, together with the establishment of a Women's
Business Advocate and a National Women's Business Advisory Council.
The Office of Women's Business Ownership would bring together
the many highly successful federal programs that now support
women entrepreneurs. It would thereby enable their equitable
delivery across Canada. It would also work in partnership with
existing regional agencies to supplement existing regional programs.
2. The creation of Women's Business Centres across Canada
to provide better access to training, financing, marketing and
other business services. "Many women cited the need for
easy, centralized access to assistance programs. They told us
they valued mentoring and said they
benefited immensely from networking. These centres would become
hubs for sharing ideas and expertise," noted the Honourable
Catherine Callbeck, Senator (Prince Edward Island) and Vice
Chair of the Task Force.
3. A federal government review of the mandate and lending
criteria of its Commercial Crown Corporations, including the
Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada,
together with amendments to the Canada Small Business Financing
Act. Amendments to this Act should include the financing of
working capital costs such as receivables, inventory and the
other costs of non-asset based companies. "For many women
entrepreneurs, access to financing remains the number one obstacle
to their business success," commented Task Force member
Karen Redman, M.P. (Kitchener Centre).
4. Access to maternity benefits and a review of other social
safety net programs to extend Employment Insurance (EI) and
other benefits to entrepreneurs. "It was not uncommon to
meet women entrepreneurs who had to return to work within days
of giving birth to take care of their
businesses and provide for their families," stated Task
Force member, The Hon. Ross Fitzpatrick, Senator (British Columbia).
"Clearly there is room to offer women a wider range of
5. Facilitated access to government procurement opportunities.
In particular, the Task Force recommends that the government
revisit its government procurement set-aside targets for women-owned
businesses and that the government study the implementation
of a supplier diversity program.
6. Development of a national research agenda and data collection
program on women entrepreneurs. The Task Force noted a lack
of specific research into the contributions of women entrepreneurs,
particularly in terms of job and wealth creation. "The
real value of the contributions of women entrepreneurs has yet
to be properly quantified or fully appreciated," explained
Task Force member Claude Duplain, M.P. (Portneuf). "By
establishing concrete socio-economic research benchmarks now,
the Government would be better equipped to track trends and
identify emerging issues to ensure its policies strengthen women's
entrepreneurship in Canada."
The Report of the Prime Minister's Task Force on Women Entrepreneurs
also outlines recommendations to improve and extend training
and development programs for women, to promote women entrepreneurs
both nationally and internationally, and to encourage and train
women entrepreneurs to be export ready.
The complete report is available online at www.liberal.parl.gc.ca/entrepreneur.