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3 Top Priorities for Women Entrepreneurs Right Now

Women, non-binary, and underrepresented entrepreneurs disproportionately bear the harsh impacts of COVID-19. 

They already experience structural barriers to running their businesses pre-pandemic. 2020 has brought more challenges. They need our support now more than ever. 

In May 2020, the Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce released a report called Falling Through the Cracks: Immediate Needs of Canada’s Underrepresented Founders

256 women replied to the survey. Of those, 61% reported the loss of revenue, contracts, and clients or customers. Approximately 40% experienced an increase in caretaking and domestic labour. Fifty-two percent reported negative mental health impacts. 

The impacts increase for racialized women, immigrant women and Indigenous women.

  • 61% of women surveyed lost revenue, contracts, and clients/customers. This number rises to 75% for immigrant and radicalized women.
  • 36% of women reported an increase in caretaking labour — 56% and 53% of racialized and immigrant women, respectively, report the same.  

Alarmingly, a large percentage of racialized, immigrant and Indigenous women are struggling with their mental health.

These issues are not new but exacerbated by current conditions. They require our attention.

Here are the top 3 priorities for women entrepreneurs in Canada, right now.

PRIORITY 1: Financing

Women need support to finance their businesses, ideas, and innovations. Women, for many reasons including systemic bias and challenges, lack access to capital. A staggering gap exists with VC funding – only 4% of available VC funding went to women-owned firms in 2016. An even smaller amount goes to Black, Indigenous, and Women of Colour founders.

Closing the gap in venture capital investment is an important step to advancing women’s access to capital.  But venture capital is going to be difficult (and expensive) to access for all entrepreneurs during a period of economic uncertainty and recession.  We must look to government funding, fiscal, and monetary policy interventions.

To begin solving this problem, direct funding to organizations that understand the challenges faced by women and underrepresented groups. Using the old systems and asking them to change is too slow of a process.

These organizations have trusted relationships with the communities they work with. They are agile and can partner with leaders in the ecosystem to maximize impact and create lasting change. Using old systems and asking them to change is too slow of a process.

PRIORITY 2: Digital Skills Training

Women need access to digital training and tools to support business growth. 

Women show lower digital adoption rates than their male counterparts. In part, this is because they are less aware of how IT can contribute to business growth. Women are also held back by concerns about technical issues and social influences like gender norms. Business owners that were not set up with digital systems pre-COVID-19 have experienced a lot of inefficiency and frustration. 

Women are more comfortable learning skills from organizations that understand their needs. Organizations like the CanWCC should help and support women to learn digital skills. Existing programs to teach business owners digital skills do not use a gender-design lens.

PRIORITY 3: Mental Health Support 

Women and underrepresented entrepreneurs need:

  • personal finance and debt counseling
  • mental health services

We cannot ignore the mental health challenges among women and underrepresented entrepreneurs. In the survey, 52% of respondents reported mental health issues. This area of economic recovery is not addressed by current government interventions. 

Mental health is pressing and for many entrepreneurs, it is out of reach. When finances are tight, it is difficult to pay out of pocket for these expenses, however crucial they are. 

To begin solving this problem, the government must understand that mental health support is financial and economic support. 

Canadian women deserve thriving, sustainable businesses.

The Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce is committed to supporting you to make this happen. We listen to the needs of women and non-binary business owners. We translate those needs into an agenda and advocate on your behalf to policymakers. 

We have designed a Business Recovery Incubator, currently under government review for funding, to support women to adapt, survive, and thrive with their businesses.

This program, if successful in its funding, will provide digital skills training, mental health support, and loans. This money will support you to build capacity and business recovery.

Make your next power move in your business, join CanWCC as a member today.