Funding for Women Entrepreneurs: Crunching the Numbers

Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland announced the 2022 Federal Budget three weeks ago, on April 7th, 2022.  There is lots to talk about in this budget – some good, some not so good. But what I’ve been struggling with is not what’s in the budget, but what’s not in the budget.  

For the first time since the debut of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy in Budget 2018, there was no mention of the Strategy, nor any substantial mention of women entrepreneurs at all in Budget 2022.

What is the budget, then?

Since there was no mention of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES)  in Budget 2022, let’s look at what was pledged in the past.  In Budget 2021, the Government committed $147 million to WES over the next 4-year period (2021 – 2025).  

To put the $147M WES investment in perspective, in the same year, the Government announced a $4 billion Digital Adoption Program (CDAP) – a program that will exclude 83% of women entrepreneurs due to its arbitrary design and eligibility criteria.

To date, WES grants and programs totalling approximately $107M (of the $147M) have been announced.  Only one program, the Women Entrepreneur Loan Fund, puts cash in the hands of women-identified entrepreneurs (although they have to pay it back, plus interest, within 5 years).  The rest of the committed funds will – presumably – benefit women entrepreneurs indirectly, through resource development and service delivery.

Credit: Adobe Stock

Crunching the numbers

First of all, there are approximately 1.2M woman-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and self-employed individuals in Canada.  The only distinction between someone who is self-employed and the owner of an SME is whether the company has paid employees.  SMEs are defined by the number of paid employees (between 1 to 499).

As mentioned above, most of the $147M will not go directly to women entrepreneurs to help them with funding – but let’s imagine it did.  If the whole $147M was distributed equally to the 1.2M woman-owned SMEs and self-employed women, each entrepreneur would receive $122.50 – or $30 per person, per year, for four years.

The 2021 investment of $147 million over 4-years in the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy, if distributed directly to women entrepreneurs, would provide $30 per person, per year.

One more example: earlier this year, WES announced the $25M Ecosystem Fund 2021.  This $25M Fund will be distributed to not-for-profit organizations to support new projects that are “focused on responding to systemic barriers and gaps for diverse, intersectional and/or under-served women.”  In 2018, the Ecosystem Fund distributed $85M to organizations to fund projects to support women entrepreneurs.  In 2020, these organizations received an additional $15M top-up related to the pandemic.

The total Ecosystem Fund to date equals $125M.  This is the money provided to organizations that support the 1.2M women entrepreneurs across Canada.  So, organizations are expected to provide the support, resources, programming and services to women entrepreneurs for $104 per person – or approximately $20 per entrepreneur, per year, for 5-years?  

Credit: Adobe Stock

What’s next?

With dwindling support for WES, informed and targeted advocacy is more important than ever.  The Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce (CanWCC) represents and advocates for women-identified and non-binary entrepreneurs, founders, and business owners.  If you support gender economic equity, join the CanWCC Community.  It’s free to join – learn more here.