Evidence of meeting #59 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was business.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Julia Deans  Chief Executive Officer, Futurpreneur Canada
Sandra Altner  Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba
Lindsay Amundsen  Workforce Development, Canada's Building Trades Unions
Jennifer Flanagan  President and Chief Executive Officer, Actua

9:25 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Futurpreneur Canada

Julia Deans

Absolutely.

Sandra, go ahead.

9:25 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner

Thank you.

One of the things we feel very strongly about in the Women's Enterprise Organizations of Canada is that this access to centralized information does not yet exist, and we would like to be instrumental in creating that throughout all of the provinces right across the country. That's because there is so much there that women are not yet taking advantage of and that they need an introduction to or information about, or to hear stories about successes in those areas, or utilization of those programs. Actually, I think that is a very important and necessary aspect of the next step.

I would absolutely agree with Ms. Deans that the real emphasis and real importance here is the growth. For women to have a real impact on the economy and to create real economic security, we really need to be looking at the growth potential. If the supports are there to aid that growth, women need to have better access to those supports.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

That's very good.

Now we'll go to Ms. Vecchio for five minutes.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Thank you very much.

Actually, I'm just going to continue with that. We talk about the real economic growth potential and about the STEM fields, agriculture, finance, and business sectors. Specifically, is there anything we can be doing, or anything that people on the ground could be doing, to target those fields to get women in them, so that there would be that growth?

Julia, I heard you mention that some organizations are saying that we must have a woman running that business, when you're talking about law firms and such. Is there something we can be doing or promoting in that regard, or is there something those organizations on the ground can be doing?

9:25 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Futurpreneur Canada

Julia Deans

I think there are a couple of things. The first is telling the stories. You hear that there's so much storytelling, but there is nothing like a young woman seeing a woman and saying, “That could be me”. Also, it makes a huge difference when they don't see those faces.

The second is building the connections. We don't need a hundred organizations like Futurpreneur Canada doing awareness-raising, mentoring, financing, etc. However, we need to build the connections between them, so that a young woman sees a pathway. What Sandra's organization, ours, and others' try to do is create those pathways forward.

As well, I think the final piece would be through encouraging those industries directly to be taking steps to advance women. I think of the work to get women on boards as one example, where provincial governments and the federal government are saying, “You are simply going to have to do this. We need to see those women, if we're going to be dealing with you or sending business your way.”

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Sandra, do you have anything to add to that?

9:25 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner

I would say that we're seeing some success in the conference that we have been presenting here in Manitoba and hope to move further out into a national venue. The idea of SHEday to get women in front of women—successful women in business, in entrepreneurship, in academia, in life in general, and in volunteerism—to tell their stories and to tell about some of the issues they've had to deal with and some of the challenges in their lives, in order to show other women that it can be done.

It's not necessarily tips and techniques, but it is important to see someone up there whom you could become. Again, I'm emphasizing the idea of a role model.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

That's absolutely fantastic.

9:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner

Last January, we had Sheila North Wilson, Grand Chief of Manitoba, tell her story. The women in the room were weeping because what this woman has overcome in her life to achieve the success she has had is extraordinary. The kind of connection that you make in those venues and in that kind of event is huge.

I would say, let's have more of that. Let's do more of that. If we can provide a model for that, because it has been so successful, we're very happy to do that.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

I only have about a minute and a half left.

Julia, we were talking about larger cities and the fact that there would be opportunities in them. What can we do to help with rural communities? We have to look at the agricultural side. We can look at the STEM fields. There are the finance and business sectors. Is there anything we can do to help and vitalize the women in those rural communities? What can we do to get them on board as well, since we do know this is occurring in the largest cities?

9:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Futurpreneur Canada

Julia Deans

One thing we haven't talked about is retiring business owners. We know that there's a huge number of Canadians who are going to retire and leave their small businesses without any leadership. That's going to have a huge effect on small towns. Encouraging retiring business owners to look at options for what they're going to do with their businesses and encouraging women to look at taking over those businesses would be one thing that we haven't talked about, in addition to the other things.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Okay.

Sandra, do you have anything to add regarding what we can do to get more rural organizations or more rural women involved in entrepreneurship?

9:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner

To the extent possible, we work in rural Manitoba. If this committee or anybody you know has the ability to influence your provincial counterparts, one thing is that additional provincial support to reach rural communities would be very important, because our resources are thin on the ground. Particularly in Manitoba, if you look at our geography, while we try to avoid “Winnipeg-itis”, it's very difficult to get out into those small communities to do the kind of work that we can do here in an urban setting.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

That's excellent. Thank you so much.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Very good.

We go now to the Honourable Hedy Fry for five minutes.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

It's been very interesting to hear some of the questions that have been asked. I want to focus on three particular areas.

The first one is obviously access to capital. I think we well know that it's really difficult for women to have access to capital from either traditional banks or other banks, because the requirement to have access to start-up money is to have chattel, and most women don't. Most women don't own a house. They don't own anything, so they can't put that up in order to get the money. We've heard this time and time again.

As a result, I know that in the 1990s the federal government of the day actually started women's enterprise centres, where they gave small amounts of money to these groups—there was one in Kelowna—and allowed these groups to give women a bit of money to start up a small business, to help them to build a business plan, and then to follow them through for the first year or so. Are those things still in existence and funded solely by the federal government, with the federal government making sure that happens?

Second, what about the Business Development Bank of Canada? I know that they have not necessarily bellied up to the bar to waive some of the requirements for women to borrow money, so that's a second place we could look at. I want to hear what you have to say about that.

The third piece is child care. Obviously, when women want to go into non-traditional areas, the big thing that prevents them from that, the biggest challenge they face, is child care. Women wanting to go into the building trades, for instance, or women wanting to go into anything that requires flexible hours, have a problem.

In this budget, we've put money into child care. How do you see that best being spent to help women entrepreneurs have access to child care? They don't fit the package. If they start the business at home, then they're homebodies and they don't need to get money for child care. As for rural women who own farms or are taking over farms, because they're on a farm and they're at home, they don't qualify either. Even though they're out in the back pasture doing work, they're at home.

These are some things that I think we may need to consider in terms of how we find ways to lever the ability for women in non-traditional areas to get access to starting their businesses. Perhaps I can hear the two of you, with the chair's permission, expound on what you think we could do better.

9:35 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner

May I respond to that, especially since it concerns the women's enterprise initiative in western Canada?

That was our group. It started in the 1990s. The amount of the loan at that time was $100,000, and there was an office in Kelowna, which still exists. There was one in Alberta, one in Saskatchewan, and one here in Manitoba.

Our loans are now at $150,000 and we're working both with start-up and growth-oriented clients. Yes, those programs do exist, and they have been very successful.

To answer the second question on whether or not BDC has bellied up to the bar, I'm happy to say that because of what we've done so far in the Women's Enterprise Organizations of Canada, there has been interest on the part of BDC to partner with us on loans. There has been a pilot program for that here in Manitoba. We signed an MOU back in August, and because of the work we've done in managing our own loan fund, BDC sees us as an accredited lender and thus will rubber-stamp some of our loans. At the $150,000 level, they will provide up to $100,000. At the $100,000 level they will provide up to $50,000 and cut out all the paperwork in-between, so it's a pilot program that they hope to move out across the west. Should we be successful in developing a national loan fund, they would partner with us in creating that across the country.

On your third question regarding child care, when Minister Morneau was in Winnipeg last year, I spoke about the importance of child care to the development of women-owned business. I was very happy to see that some attention was paid to it in this budget. It's nice to know that occasionally our voices are heard.

I'm not sure that answers all of your questions, but that's how I would respond.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Thank you.

Julia.

9:35 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Futurpreneur Canada

Julia Deans

You're absolutely right that child care is a huge issue, but all of self-employment or employment benefits are an issue for women entrepreneurs as well. The more we can extend those to women who are in unconventional career roles, the better because we're going to see more of them and we have to encourage that. Absolutely, we have to go in that direction.

We co-fund with BDC. So if a young person comes to us and makes an application for one of our loans, which doesn't require any collateral—they don't need to have a house or anything like that—BDC will piggyback on that loan application. Consequently, with one loan application a young person can get up to $45,000 without collateral. BDC couldn't do that without our doing that initial step. They are now co-funding over 65% of our loans, and last year we helped almost 1,100 businesses launch. Over 40% were led by women.

I spoke earlier to a campaign we've done to reach out to women to say that we're here to help you. With Futurpreneur, BDC has been a wonderful partner in that. They have really put themselves out as saying that they want to do more for women and that they are there to do that.

The final thing you spoke to was leveraging. Federal support has been huge for us, but we've leveraged it both to get support from BDC and the private sector. We're interested in leveraging existing capital. So we use our federal support to get a line of credit from a private bank and we're able to tap into private sector capital that wouldn't otherwise be going to women or other young entrepreneurs.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

That's very good.

Now we'll go to Ms. Harder for our final five minutes of this panel.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

Ms. Deans, I am wondering if you can break down for us what we as legislators can do to better assist young female entrepreneurs—not even young, sorry, but female entrepreneurs—to enter into business start-ups.

9:40 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Futurpreneur Canada

Julia Deans

Use whatever power you have to influence the education that young women are getting. Look at all of the platforms you have for telling and celebrating the stories of women entrepreneurs and helping them get access to federal buying power, whatever kind of procurement it is. Also look at any place where the federal government has a platform, whether a panel like this or advertisements or delegations going on trade missions, and ask where the women are and make sure that women are visible at every level.

The final piece is supporting organizations like ours and building connections between them so that we can offer more to more people.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you very much.

Ms. Altner, I'll ask you the same question. What can we do as federal legislators to better support women entering into entrepreneurship?

9:40 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner

Provide access to information and increased access to the programs that are already available. Encourage collaborations between and among organizations like ours and like Julia's. I was so pleased to see this gender-based analysis finally show up in the budget. I think the use of that gender-based analysis—how women utilize programs and whether those programs are sufficient to meet the needs of women—should be monitored very closely over time.

I would also say that we are seeing not only increased access to our support services by young entrepreneurs and by Indigenous entrepreneurs, but by senior entrepreneurs as well. This is an area that has not yet really been seen as a focus, but with the succession planning, with the aging boomers, and the losing of a great deal of wisdom and experience in the workplace, in the last five years, there has been a new direction of seniorpreneurs and maturepreneurs also being able to access programs and being encouraged to start their own businesses, because people are not retiring in the same way or at the same age as they were. They're working longer and they're starting businesses at a greater rate that are successful and that create jobs. It would be wrong to ignore this aspect of the community. I would point this out as an area of potential focus for your organization in the future.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you very much.