Thank you for having me here today.
The economic security of women cannot be addressed unless we look at three factors: education, employment, and entrepreneurship. What I'll do is go backward and start with entrepreneurship.
I've looked at a study conducted by the OECD in 2014, named “Enhancing Women's Economic Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship and Business Leadership in OECD Countries”. It found that when it comes to entrepreneurship, more men prefer to be self-employed than women. The reasons for that, as noted in a European Commission study in 2013, were a fear of bankruptcy, a lack of available financial support, and the complex situation of reaching funding.
They found that women, more than men, start ventures for non-pecuniary reasons, such as satisfaction with their work, the possibility of making a difference in the community, or a search for a good balance between work and family life. What it came down to was that women started businesses out of necessity, becoming entrepreneurs because they could not find employment in the labour market.
If we look at employment, we see that women need to have equal access to opportunity. That comes down to really making sure that top management and leadership are committed to making sure that there is equality in hiring and that they promote women in organizations. That comes down to the actions of CEOs, senior managers, and managers, who influence this entire gender change and gap in corporations.
Let's look at education, which is really the core fundamental. I'm here to suggest a drastic change to our education system. I've been fortunate enough to work for many companies, including two German companies, an English company, and a Malaysian one. I've worked all over. I come with 10 years of experience in telecommunications. Prior to that I worked for Correctional Service Canada here in Ottawa. In-between, I've worked in small business and government, with international experience.
I found that the best labour force was in Germany, and it came down to their education system. They do a lot of aptitude tests. They do a lot of testing for the process until the age of 11, and after that, based on the testing they do, students have a choice of going into five different types of schooling. After they finish that schooling, up to about grade 9 or 10, they go into an apprenticeship where they work for a few days a week and go to school. It's actually training in the field.
Based on the studies they go through, they either go into a college where they learn a skill, a trade that is matched to a job when they graduate; or they go to university and study, whether it's in engineering, legal studies, or whatnot.
What Germany does is to test their students throughout, from the early age of six. They put them through the right schooling and then then through part-time work where they get paid as well as going to school.
One important thing is that even the students who have finished university have to do one year of internship. Because of the European Union, they are able to go and live abroad, all over the EU, and work. When they graduate, they have a network and real-life experience are able to go to work. They're matched to jobs. That's why their labour market is that much more efficient. When you talk about German efficiency—and we consume their cars, their medicine, and their top technology—it's because of that.
As for what we do here in Canada, I can only speak of Ontario, where a minimum wage of $15 was just announced. I think that is dangerous.
I started my first job when I was 16 years old. I worked at Canada's Wonderland. I thought that was the greatest thing. I decided to do it because I was able to work and then go and play, but I was getting paid $6.40. My first job was selling ice cream out of those carts. I was selling ice cream and cotton candy, but you could pay me $6.40, or whatever the minimum wage was then. If you start at $15 per hour, I would never be hired if I were 16 years old, because why wouldn't you hire somebody with far more education and experience? We're heading down a path that could alienate not only the youth, but also women.
I want to clarify one thing. In Canada, we bring in—what is the quota?—fewer than 300,000 immigrants every year. What you see in Germany is that immigrants from Pakistan, India, China, and Vietnam perform exceptionally well because they go into a system where they are tested in aptitude tests and go through the education system. The parents and teachers discuss the path they want their children to take, so it's a collaborative effort. Today, you have people going to school to become teachers, but there aren't many jobs left.
My brother, for example, started his own company. He creates websites and does marketing, search engine optimization, and branding. When he went to college, he couldn't find an up-to-date coding course and anything on what the disruptive market has introduced in California—the sharing economy and whatnot. He had to learn it on his own and start his company, and he's been successful.
Not everybody is going to have that entrepreneurial spirit. Not everybody is going to be able to have such a job. It starts from early on. I know the education system is under the mandate of the provinces, but I think the federal government should start a process wherein—just like with the marijuana legalization—they would develop a framework that the provinces would then have to manage X, Y, and Z. This is what I believe we should do with our education system, which is really where it stems from. We could throw money at everything and have access to opportunity and funding and education, but it really comes down to what I suggested. That's it.