Prime Minister's 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 options".

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

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