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

9:05 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Futurpreneur Canada

Julia Deans

There are four simple answers. Confidence: they don't see role models; they have parents who've said, “You're not going to be an entrepreneur because it's a terrible thing to do” or “I was and it was awful, so I don't want you to do it”. Competence: a lot of kids get through school without any financial literacy skills or other skills that would help them to start businesses. Connections: where do you go, and who's going to help you? Capital: getting the money is a big issue for a lot of people, and it varies so much across the country from place to place.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Okay, thank you.

Ms. Altner, are you there with us?

9:10 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner

I'm still here, yes.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

I'm going to ask the same question of you.

What do you notice being the big challenges that women face with regard to entering into entrepreneurship? What are you noticing on your side?

9:10 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner

I would add credibility to Ms. Deans' c-group of confidence, capital, etc., because I think women in business still have a bit of a glass ceiling in that area of developing partnerships and relationships, creating good relationships with suppliers and accessing potentially good mentors. I think there's still a bit of a gap there in creating that visible competency. Even though the competency might be there, it is not seen to be there, necessarily, in the mainstream.

Confidence is a big one. We do a lot of coaching here, and to go back to one of your questions, part of our mentorship is the professional mentorship that comes with coaching. Of our business advisers, and the advisers throughout the whole WEI system, a majority have entrepreneurship experience, and so they know what they're talking about and can provide both the intelligent business advisory services and also the coaching part that is so necessary when you're working with women entrepreneurs. For some of the issues that women face, in terms of family balance, access to capital, and so many things that their male counterparts don't have to deal with, issues that come up very often in partnerships and family partnerships that affect the business, the expertise here really makes a difference in helping women to navigate some of those very difficult life areas that affect their ability to create a successful enterprise.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you. Very good

9:10 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner

Sorry, may I add just one thing? The peer support is quite important, and we found that bringing people together at early stages in their businesses to work together has been immensely successful.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Very good.

We'll go to Ms. Malcolmson, for seven minutes.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to both the witnesses.

Ms. Altner, I want to talk a little more about some of the underlying reasons that women face barriers to their credibility, capital, connections, competence, and confidence in that list cited by witnesses here.

We heard from one of the witnesses from the Canadian Labour Congress. Vicky Smallman encapsulated it nicely, saying that we need to look at women's economic justice and not just women's economic empowerment so that we're sure that we're removing the barriers that keep marginalized women from realizing their full potential and addressing those barriers. I saw in your response to budget 2017 that you had hoped that some of the funding allocated for innovation and entrepreneurial development would be targeted specifically to support programs benefiting new Canadians and indigenous women.

I hope that you can talk with us for a couple of minutes about what you see the federal government's being able to do to help remove those barriers. That means not just focusing on empowering women, but what we can do in a focused way on the federal government's side to assist women of colour, immigrant women, women with disabilities, and indigenous women.

9:10 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner

In the area of entrepreneurship, this is a big question. I'm not even sure how to attack it. I think a lot of the issues are issues of socialization. They're deeper and more intrinsic in our society than simply providing loans or support services to women. We need to be looking at societal changes. I'm not sure how much the federal government can do in that area until and unless we work on our educational system.

In the work that we do, we think that we're working in that direction already. Continued support from the government to agencies like the RDAs that support women's entrepreneurship initiatives; programs or projects that specifically work with newcomers and indigenous women; and the ability to include those women into the mainstream and create more of the peer mentorship opportunities.... If I could sit down and start rewriting that proposal and getting into more detail on it, I could think of four or five or six different projects that we could do on a national level through the Women's Enterprise Organizations of Canada that would pull together some of the work that's already been done across the country. However, there's no common voice; there's no collection of information, knowledge, and expertise.

From all of the organizations like ours across the country that have been working specifically with women for 5, 10, 15, 20 years, there's nothing there yet that can pull that together into some kind of central organization or agency or portal that can benefit all of us by sharing best practices and coming to understand all of the different regional differences and how we have each responded to those issues and found solutions that we now need to share. I don't think we need something new. We need to support and continue the work that's been done and to develop that national voice.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

That's very helpful. Thank you.

Let's turn to Ms. Deans from Futurpreneur Canada. We are seeing that women continue to be concentrated in low-wage precarious part-time work and are still under-represented in leadership positions.

I met yesterday with the Minerva Foundation. Their 2016 scorecard for British Columbia showed that of the 50 organizations studied in B.C., only 12% had a female CEO, and there were no women of indigenous descent on boards and senior management teams. We know that many of these women are qualified to lead, but there are barriers to their being able to achieve what they're capable of, whether wage discrimination or lack of child care.

I'm hoping that you can give us your advice on what you think the federal government could do to be involved in including a diverse range of women in leadership positions, and how we can reach out to immigrant women, indigenous women, women of colour, and LGBTQ2 women.

9:15 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Futurpreneur Canada

Julia Deans

As a start, I think that ensuring that women, wherever they are in the country, have access to support to create jobs for themselves and for others is tremendous. I often say that in Toronto or in Vancouver or in Ottawa, we're in the land of plenty. There's lots happening. But if you're in Terrace, or in a remote part of Newfoundland, there may not be much there. So providing some foundational support for organizations like ours to be available and to connect those women to resources, I think, is huge.

The second piece is connection building. The federal government, whether through INAC or ISED or the other acronyms, has the ability to draw links between some of the programs that are happening. We have talked a lot this morning about indigenous women. A lot of different departments are supporting or attempting to support indigenous women. The more that connections can be built among those efforts, the better.

The third would be procurement. I think we all know that the Government of Canada and the governments of the provinces are huge procurement bodies. Stating the policy of reaching out to organizations that are led by women, and particularly women from under-represented leadership groups, can make a huge difference as well.

We had a situation in Toronto that some of the companies said they would deal only with law firms that had women on the teams or leading the teams. It just changed things overnight. It's very easy to say, “We're looking for the women. Where are they?”

The final piece would be influencing education. It's not within the federal purview per se, but the federal government is in a position to influence education policy across the country and to ensure that young women are getting access to skill development, whether it's financial literacy or communications. Coding is another example. I happen to think financial literacy is probably the key, because if young women are raised to know that it's on them to figure out that they have to take control and determine their economic future, they are going to be a lot more interested and motivated to do that, I think.

The final thing I'd say is that when you get women leading businesses, they bring up women behind them. We see it every day. One of our businesses in Hamilton—it's a bakery—won the TELUS business of the year award. It won $100,000. One of its things from the get-go was, “We're going to pay everybody on our staff a living wage,” which was huge, because in the bakery business, bakers make next to nothing, and they're all getting paid a living wage. So women, when they lead the businesses, tend to do the right thing by their women.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Very good.

Now we'll go to Ms. Nassif for seven minutes.

May 4th, 2017 / 9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

My first question is for Ms. Deans.

Given your expertise in entrepreneurial success, I would like to ask you a question about venture capital investments.

There are four possible scenarios for venture capital: men investing in men; men investing in women; women investing in men; and women investing in women. The last scenario, women investing in women, is the least likely to materialize.

Is there an explanation for that?

9:20 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Futurpreneur Canada

Julia Deans

I understood your question in French, but with permission I will answer in English.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

I can ask it in English if you want.

9:20 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Futurpreneur Canada

Julia Deans

No, I understood it for sure. I believe your question is, why do we not see more women investing in women?

For sure, one of the first reasons is that we don't have as many women with money to invest in other women's businesses, and we don't have women necessarily leading the venture capital and financing bodies that have the capacity to invest in other women. But I think we're seeing a bit of a change in that with organizations like SheEO and with groups like Sandra's that are stepping up, and whether it's with their own resources or galvanizing the resources of other women, are bringing resources to women-led businesses. There is definitely an incline in that and a very positive one as well. We aren't in a position to find investors for our new businesses, but we are in a position to introduce them to organizations like Sandra's and SheEO, whereby they can take things to the next level and galvanize more support.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Would you like to add something, Ms. Altner?

9:20 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner

Yes, I would like to add to that. For a number of years now, and through several changes in government, I have been hoping for and pushing the idea of a women's-centred capital fund in Canada. We truly need that.

There have been some very successful ones in the States like Golden Seeds, for example, that probably have a significantly higher success rate than their male counterparts simply because women do business in a very different way.

I just made a presentation last week to our own provincial government for such a fund. In the the loan fund that we have in the west, our cap is $150,000. We're working at a the of entrepreneurship. Most of our entrepreneurs aren't ready for venture capital. Maybe 5% of our clients are. When they are, it's very difficult for them to find those dollars.

We are seeing an increase in the number of women entrepreneurs overall in North America. I think five years ago only 5% of all venture capital was provided to women-owned businesses, and now the last number I saw was somewhere in the range of 12% to 13%. I know progress is being made. Part of that is because of the studies being done to show the success rates of women-owned or women-partnered businesses.

Just as we have programs specifically for women entrepreneurs, we need a fund that is specifically for women entrepreneurs.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you.

My next question is for both witnesses.

Do we have information about the business areas in which women are more likely to succeed or fail?

I would like to know whether we can get that information, whether it is sales versus purchasing, or goods versus services.

9:20 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Futurpreneur Canada

Julia Deans

Pardon me, but could you repeat your question?

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Do we have information about the business areas in which women are more likely to succeed or fail?

9:20 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Women's Enterprise Centre of Manitoba

Sandra Altner

May I respond to that?

My understanding, from what we've seen here at the Women's Enterprise Centre, is that there's a success rate of approximately 75% across the board over five years among our loan clients when we do the due diligence and the aftercare. I don't know if there is a specific kind of business that is successful. I do know that women tend to gravitate to businesses that are more service-oriented, from retail businesses to HR and other kinds of business services, and less so in manufacturing and technology—although that's beginning to change too, I'm happy to say, as more women are becoming involved in STEM kinds of businesses.

I would find it hard to respond to the question and say what businesses they are more successful in. The level of success, I think, is level across the board.

9:25 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Futurpreneur Canada

Julia Deans

I agree with Ms. Altner. It's tricky to pick an area where women are most successful. The thing that worries me more is that we're not seeing women in growth businesses. Many women are in businesses that are creating jobs for themselves, maybe for one or two other people, but they're not creating tens or hundreds of jobs. You can do that in retail and in technology, so I think that's where we need to focus. Help women to see that they have the opportunity to grow, whether it's through getting more money or specialized advice or being introduced to export markets, and that they can succeed in whatever industry.

I'm not one of the people who thinks you have to create an app to be a successful company. I've seen a lot of successful businesses in the very normal retail and food sectors, or what have you. Whatever a women is interested in, our goal is to help her get started and to help her take it to the next level.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

If women do not have sufficient access to resources and support measures, can we nonetheless easily access information about those resources?

Does it vary from one province to another?