January 11, 2022 – Ottawa, Ontario
As Canada works to finish the fight against COVID-19, the Government of Canada is committed to driving a strong, inclusive and sustainable economic recovery that addresses systemic gaps and empowers women in the economy.
Today, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development, announced a call for proposals for new projects under the Women Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Fund, one of the initiatives of the $6 billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES). She was joined by the Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth; Arif Virani, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development; and representatives of organizations that have received WES support, Christine Nakamura, Vice-President of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, and Alida Burke, COO of Growcer.
To date, the WES Ecosystem Fund has invested $100 million in 52 projects that are helping close service gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem for women, particularly in areas such as mentorship, networking and skills development. From 2020 to 2021, the Ecosystem Fund has helped over 5,000 women start a new business and over 7,000 women grow their existing business.
Under this new call for proposals, $25 million is available for projects that aim to remove systemic barriers and create more equal access to the resources that intersectionally diverse and underserved women in business need to succeed.
To be considered, projects must be led by non-profit organizations, be national or multi-regional in scope, and be focused on intersectionally diverse and/or underserved women entrepreneurs. Projects must also include a mentoring and networking component and should provide business development or capacity building and skills development to support:
- supplier diversity
- recovery planning/adaptation
Consideration will also be given to projects that will contribute to strengthening the network of women entrepreneurship organizations in Canada.
This new funding for the WES Ecosystem Fund builds on the historic investments the government has made to support women since 2015—from integrating gender-based analysis into policy decisions and program development, legislating pay equity and enhancing the Canada Child Benefit to providing special funding to support women entrepreneurs during the pandemic and working to make Canada-wide early learning and child care a reality through a $30 billion investment in Budget 2021.
“Women business owners and entrepreneurs are facing unique difficulties during these challenging and uncertain times. Our government is committed to removing systemic barriers and empowering women entrepreneurs and business owners. With the additional $25 million investment in the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund, we are continuing our work to level the playing field and drive a strong, inclusive and sustainable economic recovery.”
– The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development
“Just sixteen per cent of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are women-owned. We know that women face barriers when trying to grow or start a business. To directly address this issue, the Women Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Fund will continue helping women access training, mentorship and services while also supporting their businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to advocate and drive systemic change so that women-owned businesses in our country can thrive.”
– The Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth
“Looking ahead to our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, our government knows that supporting women is the smartest thing we can do. By advancing gender equality, we will add $150 billion to the Canadian economy. The investments that our government is making through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy are important social and economic measures that will be critical to building back better and building back more inclusively by supporting diverse female entrepreneurs.”
– Arif Virani, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development
- The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), a more than $6 billion investment, includes:
- the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, which has brought together 10 regional hubs, over 300 organizations and thousands of women entrepreneurs to create a more inclusive and supportive environment to grow women’s entrepreneurship in Canada;
- the WES Ecosystem Fund, which is helping remove barriers to the support networks and deliver the resources that women entrepreneurs need to start up, scale up and access new markets; and
- the Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund, a new national fund that will provide affordable microloans to women entrepreneurs. The selection of loan administrators is under way, and lending to women entrepreneurs will be begin shortly.
- The government is also investing in removing systemic barriers faced by diverse entrepreneurs, including through the Black Entrepreneurship Program.
- To ensure women have equal access to the benefits and opportunities arising from international investment, Canada is taking an inclusive approach to trade by integrating gender-related provisions in all its free trade agreements. The government has also co-signed the Global Trade and Gender Arrangement—a stand-alone initiative open to other economies to join.
Office of the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada