COVID-19 is unique in the severity of its impact as it is a humanitarian disaster that has caused both a supply and a demand shock to the global economic system. It has disproportionately affected women entrepreneurs as their firms are younger and smaller. All businesses must pivot their business models in times of tumultuous change, simultaneously reducing risk and seizing new opportunities, this is particularly difficult for women entrepreneurs, whose businesses are concentrated in the industry sectors most severely affected by the economic shutdown.
The Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub has been sharing information with its network on the new programs launched by the Government of Canada and collecting feedback on what is working and what could be improved to meet the needs of diverse women entrepreneurs. This report reflects the feedback from more than 200 organizations in the ecosystem supporting entrepreneurs as well as more than 100 individual entrepreneurs. The principal issues are
- The focus on SMEs with employees excludes many women entrepreneurs who are more likely to be solo entrepreneurs or self-employed without employees but often with sub-contractors;
- The focus on loans is challenging given women entrepreneurs’ attitudes and experience of debt;
- The focus on technological innovation excludes the majority of women-led businesses;
- Women need different forms of support and advice, and more intensive one-on-one supports
- With some adaptations, current programs, investments in the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) and innovations across the ecosystem, can be leveraged, replicated and scaled to better meet the needs of women entrepreneurs.
- Ensure gender and diversity analysis is applied not only to data being collected and shared on COVID 19, programs being developed, their uptake and impact, but how funding is being allocated across newly announced supports. Continue to advance Gender and Diversity playbook, training and transparency for funding agencies. We want to ensure that the support resources are being allocated fairly across the women entrepreneurship ecosystem.