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Women entrepreneur Task Force calls for changes

By Michelle Collins |

OTTAWA - A new report calls for sweeping changes to federal policy to help women entrepreneurs. Among the recommended changes made by the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Women Entrepreneurs, is the creation of an Office of Women’s Business Ownership. The report also addressed a need for more access to financial support, export opportunities, and maternity benefits.

Created in November 2002, the Task Force has learned that there are 821,000 women entrepreneurs in Canada and they contribute over $18 billion to the economy. Additionally, this population has increased by 200 per cent over the last 20 years and now represents the fastest growing sector.

Despite this growth the Task Force found that these women still face unique barriers to growth. To adapt to these changes and help women overcome these challenges Sarmite Bulte, Chair and M.P. (Parkdale-High Park)

The Task Force brought forward the following recommendations:

Create an Office of Women’s Business Ownership: This Office would act as a single location where women could find information and access federal programs related to them. The creation of a central office would also allow for more equal distribution throughout the country. Partnerships with existing regional organizations are also recommended.

In addition to the Office, Bulte also asked for the creation of a Women’s Business Advocate and a National Women’s Business Advisory Council to lend further support to these entrepreneurs.

Establish Women’s Business Centres: These centres could offer support for training, financing, marketing, and other important services. The Hon. Catherine Callbeck, Senator (Prince Edward Island) and Vice Chair of the Task Force, said that: “many women cited the need for easy, centralized access to assistance programs. They told us they valued mentoring and said they benefited immensely from networking. These centres would become hubs for sharing ideas and expertise.”

Maternity Benefits: The Task Force found that women entrepreneurs face unique challenges when it comes to the dual role of work and motherhood. As a result the Task Force is recommending that the federal government grant women entrepreneurs access to maternity benefits.

Federal review of Commercial Crown Corporations: Along with this review the Task Force is calling for amendments to the Canada Small Business Financing Act. These amendments include financing of working capital costs such as receivables and inventory. Task Force member, Karen Redman, M.P. (Kitchener Centre) noted: “that for many women entrepreneurs, access to financing remains the number one obstacle to their business success.”

Government procurement:The government should consider readjusting its target objectives so that more women entrepreneurs can have an opportunity to win these contracts.

Create a national research program: The Task Force, which found a lack of specific research on the contributions that women entrepreneurs make to the Canadian economy, recommends a national reseach program devoted to collect information and data on women entrepreneurs. This information could be used to create benchmarks, making it easier policy makers to better identify trends and issues relating to this sector.

For a full copy of the report visit

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