Hello and welcome to the 19th meeting of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.
Today the committee is resuming its study of economic leadership and prosperity of Canadian women.
We are fortunate today to have four groups of witnesses. From the Department of Industry, we have Shereen Benzvy Miller, Assistant Deputy Minister, Small Business, Tourism and Marketplace Services. Joining her is Dan Batista, Senior Director, Service Delivery and Partnerships.
From the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, I would like to welcome Daryell Nowlan, Vice-President, Policy and Programs.
From the Business Development Bank of Canada, we have Gina Gale, Senior Vice-President, Financing and Consulting, Atlantic Canada, and Julia Fournier, President and Chief Executive Officer, HCMWorks Inc.
Finally, the fourth group is the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, which is represented by Michèle Boutin, Executive Director, Canada Research Chairs Program. Joining her today are two researchers, Catherine Elliott, Assistant Professor at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa, and by videoconference, we have Alison M. Konrad, Professor, from London, Ontario.
Thank you and welcome, everyone. Each group will have 10 minutes for their presentation.
We will begin with the Department of Industry. You have 10 minutes. Thank you.
Madam Chair, thank you for that introduction.
Madam Chair and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to address this committee and provide you with an overview of women entrepreneurs in Canada, some of the work that Industry Canada is doing with small businesses and entrepreneurs in general, and how we support women entrepreneurs specifically.
Canada's small businesses and entrepreneurs are the backbone of the economy, with small and medium-sized enterprises representing 98% of Canadian businesses. They lay the foundation for the Canadian economic system in terms of job creation, economic growth, and innovation. SMEs account for 45% of GDP, much of the economy's growth, 60% of all jobs in the economy, and 75% of net employment growth.
Women entrepreneurs are an important part of the SME community. Fostering women's entrepreneurial activity also has a significant impact on wealth and job creation across the country.
In 2011 almost 14% of small businesses were solely owned by females, while over 18% were owned in equal measure by both men and women.
Female majority-owned firms tend to be concentrated in specific industries, namely, service industries such as wholesale and trade, health care, arts and entertainment, and accommodation and food services.
On average, women business owners are younger and report fewer years of management or ownership experience compared with that of male business owners. However, they are highly educated, with close to 70% reporting to have attained a post-secondary degree. One interesting fact is that nearly one in four female business owners in Canada were born outside of Canada.
Research has also shown that successful entrepreneurs, both men and women, have similar motivations. They have a desire to build wealth, a wish to capitalize on their business ideas, and a long-standing desire to own their own businesses. Nonetheless, there are some small but informative gender differences between men and women entrepreneurs. In considering entrepreneurship as a viable career option, women often feel they need more support in terms of encouragement, networking opportunities, and funding.
Women also face some gender-specific obstacles such as gender discrimination in the business community in terms of gaining access to credit, information, training, markets and technology. They also tend to face pressures from dual roles as business owners and family caregivers.
The Canadian government has many programs and initiatives in place to increase women's participation and prosperity in the workplace and to help address some of the obstacles that women face as entrepreneurs.
I'd like to talk about some of the work that we do at Industry Canada to help support women entrepreneurs. At the federal level, there are 290 programs and services aimed at businesses, delivered by more than 30 federal organizations. At Industry Canada, we have a number of programs and services that can help women in business. These include: the Canada business network, in which we are partners with the regional development agencies, including ACOA; the Canada small business financing program, which is a 50-year-old program; the Canadian Youth Business Foundation; and the directory of women-owned businesses.
Let me first tell you about the Canada business network. It is a program that delivers access to reliable information and tools to Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs. It's intended to help entrepreneurs and small business owners save time and make informed business decisions by improving access to government information and services. The CBN program is delivered by Industry Canada for online services at canadabusiness.gc.ca, and by some of my colleagues at the regional development agencies for telephone and in-person services across the country. It's not in my notes, but I'd like to tell you that we have 70,000 Twitter followers on canadabusiness. Seventy thousand: isn't that great?
The program is also delivered in collaboration with provinces, territories, and other service delivery organizations. Entrepreneurs don't necessarily care who's delivering the information to them; they want the information where they live and where it's easiest for them to access. These kinds of multi-organizational partnerships are ideal for serving businesses.
Although CBN is not specific to women entrepreneurs, it does offer a service that is supportive of the needs of all new and growing small businesses. The network partners with other organizations on events and activities for women entrepreneurs. The CBN website, canadabusiness.ca, is a key access point for Government of Canada services to business. Industry Canada is responsible for its management.
The website provides information on a wide variety of services, programs and regulations at the federal and provincial levels of government to businesses across Canada. The site also contains information to assist small businesses seeking financing, business planning and research tools, and regulatory information as offered through the BizPaL service.
In French it's PerLE; in English it's BizPaL. For those who have never heard of it, BizPaL is intended for businesses that are looking for permits and licences, ergo “PaL”, permits and licences.
The site provides timely and relevant information to business clients and uses social media elements, such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds, in other words, the whole gamut of social media access. Other departments and programs use canadabusiness.ca as an outreach mechanism to deliver information to the small business community.
In 2013-14, the website facilitated access to programs and services for 1.4 million clients and was recognized as a leading web service for Canadian small businesses. Actually, I think Rogers named it the number one website for government information for businesses. The site has also become very active in social media, as I alluded to earlier, with over 2,000 likes on our Facebook page, and a very active business blog sought and utilized by a number of partners both in the public and the private sectors.
In fact, the website has featured three guest blogs by Canadian businesswomen in international trade at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development. The blogs have covered various topics. One topic, titled, “Business Women + Business Networks = Business Growth”, deals with how businesswomen who are ready to export and who want to grow their businesses abroad can access a variety of networks. Another title is, “Want to grow your business globally? Let us help you get there”. This covers fast-tracking export opportunities, and points to information and intelligence and practical advice to accelerate business within new markets. A third topic, titled, “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum”, discusses the benefits of joining, communicating, and connecting with businesswomen in international trade. A special blog was also featured on International Women's Day to celebrate women in business.
Other related information on women in business on the CBN website includes links to a variety of organizations across Canada that provide coaching, training, peer-lending programs, and mentoring to help women start and grow businesses.
The Canada Business service centres also play an active role in providing support to the small business community, including women entrepreneurs. The centres work with regional access partners such as the Women's Enterprise Centres but also Community Futures, Business Economic Development Corporations—
Either my time is up, or I am winning something. Did I win something?
Thank you very much for the invitation.
I'm pleased to be here today in my role as vice-president of policy and programs at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. I'll talk to you a little bit about some of the work that ACOA does in its role in supporting women entrepreneurs, but first I'll give a little bit of context around ACOA and what we are and what we do.
ACOA was created in 1987 with the mandate to create economic growth in Atlantic Canada by helping businesses to become more productive, competitive, and innovative. We do this by working with our many partners in economic development and by focusing really in three main areas.
First is business development. We help improve the business climate and lend a hand with individual business start-ups, modernizations, and expansions.
Second is community economic development. We work with communities and community organizations to nurture economic growth, improve local infrastructure, and develop opportunities in the local economy.
Last is our policy advocacy and coordination role, which is really about championing the Atlantic Canadian perspective and the region's interests on the national level in areas like policy development and research analysis and about working with other departments in an effort to coordinate policies and programs and to bring the Atlantic perspective.
Our programs place an emphasis on helping businesses increase their productivity, develop skills, commercialize innovative technologies, and improve their global competitiveness.
While ACOA's mandate and programming extend to all SMEs in Atlantic Canada, the agency has also strategically targeted certain demographic groups to help grow the pool of Atlantic Canadians with the motivation, attitudes, and skills needed to plan, launch, and grow their businesses.
Early in our mandate, ACOA identified women as a segment of the population that was particularly under-represented in terms of self-employment. Our research, similar to what Madam Miller just talked about, indicated that women were less likely than men to see entrepreneurship as an option for them. They tended to start smaller businesses and were less likely to grow.
They were also less likely to have previously owned a business, and therefore, tended to lack some of the expertise in financial management or business planning and did not have strong business networks in place. They also faced financing constraints that arose from characteristics of their business, which were often in services, where lenders perceive there to be a greater risk and where they might be able to offer little or no security.
To counter these challenges, ACOA targeted funding for projects that undertook to reach out to and engage women entrepreneurs, to provide mentoring, training, and access to business advice, and to facilitate access to capital.
ACOA's investments in women entrepreneurs have evolved over the years, and we're now able to capitalize on really sophisticated networks throughout the region that are dedicated to helping women in business in Atlantic Canada.
We provide financial support for not-for-profit business organizations across the region that in turn provide women entrepreneurs with the resources they need to improve the growth and competitiveness of their business. These services are really around four main areas or pillars, if you will: providing access to business advice, services, and information; improving business skills; helping with access to capital; and identifying ways to improve their export capacity.
In Nova Scotia, ACOA has helped to establish and continues to support the Mount Saint Vincent University Centre for Women in Business. It's one of the leading organizations for the development of women business owners and entrepreneurs in Canada, and it has served over 12,000 clients since its inception in 1992.
One example of a client assisted through the centre is Tamara Barker Watson. She is the CEO of Whitestone Developments, an energy-efficient builder in Halifax. Tamara is a member of the Atlantic chapter of the Women Presidents' Organization and was recently awarded The Printing House Sustainability Award at the 2013 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. She credits the centre with providing her with direction and encouragement and with helping her to solve problems with marketing and human resources.
In P.E.I., ACOA supports the Prince Edward Island Business Women's Association, which provides services to nearly 330 members across the island, including businesses, individuals, and associations.
In New Brunswick, we work with the New Brunswick Association of Community Business Development Corporations, which in turn has a network of dedicated development officers throughout the province, who work directly with women entrepreneurs to assist them in various stages of their business from start-up to expansion, growth, and succession.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, ACOA supports the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Women Entrepreneurs, known as NLOWE. They're making great strides in helping women who are owners of high-growth businesses to break into new markets locally and internationally.
Examples of success who have come out of the work of NLOWE are Sydney Ryan and Cindy Roma, who are co-owners of Telelink, a Newfoundland and Labrador owned and operated customer contact centre. They've availed themselves of some of the trade initiatives that NLOWE has and have expanded their client base. They've grown their bottom line by 350% from 2009 to 2012, and they were ranked 35 in the PROFIT/Chatelaine's ranking of Canada’s top female entrepreneurs just last year.
These organizations have also partnered to develop and deliver initiatives such as the Women's Business Enterprise certification from WEConnect. I think you heard about that from a witness the other day. This certification allows women-owned businesses to enter lucrative Fortune 500 and public sector supply chains through supplier diversity programs. In addition to these programs, ACOA also works with women entrepreneurs through all of our programs, like the business development program and the Atlantic innovation fund.
For example Telelink, the customer contact centre I mentioned earlier, recently received a loan from ACOA to help expand and modernize its call centre, enabling it to hire more people so that it could improve its operations. As another example, in northern New Brunswick there's an organization called Centre Transmed Center Inc., a medical transcription and translation service. It's located in Campbellton, New Brunswick, which is one of the province's economically challenged regions. It employs about 50 people there under the leadership of Rachel Arseneau-Ferguson, its CEO.
We also assist women in their efforts in international business through things like the recent Seafood Expo North America, a Boston seafood show. At this event a couple of ACOA's clients, Esther Dockendorff, president of P.E.I. Mussel King, and Lori Kennedy, who is co-owner of Louisbourg Seafoods, have showcased their products and built strong relationships through trade that have led to increased sales. ACOA recognizes that women entrepreneurs are a major economic force in Atlantic Canada, and we're committed to continuing to work with our partners to provide them with the tools and support they need to succeed.
That's a bit of an overview of some of the things we do and some of the folks we work with. I appreciate the opportunity to come and speak to you today, and I look forward to our discussion and questions.
Distinguished members of Parliament, mesdames et messieurs
, good afternoon. It's certainly a pleasure to be here today.
Thank you for giving us this opportunity to help inform the committee on the economic leadership and prosperity of Canadian women by presenting to you how BDC supports women in business. As I said, I'm very pleased to be here with you today. Particularly as a 15-year employee of BDC, women in business and encouraging women in business is certainly an interest of mine.
I'd like to introduce to you Ms. Julia Fournier, who is an owner of HCMWorks and Payment Services Corporation, companies that specialize in helping organizations manage indirect procurement and payroll costs. She's a client of BDC and she's going to be sharing some of her experiences with us today, and I'll share time with her today as well.
First, I will provide you with an overview of BDC's overall contribution to the Canadian entrepreneur ecosystem, with a focus on the support we bring to women in business. Then Julia will give her perspective on how BDC has helped her grow her business. I'll begin by providing you with a few brief facts on BDC so that you're well aware of BDC.
BDC is the only bank in Canada that deals exclusively with entrepreneurs. As a development bank, we provide solutions to the needs and challenges faced by Canadian businesses with a particular focus on small and medium-sized businesses. We do this by providing our financing and consulting services to entrepreneurs.
We have over 28,000 clients. These clients together earn more than $175 billion in revenue and employ over 719,000 people across the country. We have about $18 billion in assets managed by over 100 business centres across the bank.
We're governed by the Business Development Bank of Canada Act. We are a financial institution that complements the regular financial institutions by taking more risk but by pricing it accordingly. We're not a lender of last resort.
Because the SMEs we support are very successful, we are profitable and we're able to pay dividends to the government on a yearly basis. We do not depend on government funding. We do not use taxpayers' money. We are a self-sustaining organization.
According to the Statistics Canada survey on financing and growth of SMEs which was produced in 2011, we found that SMEs' main internal obstacles to growth are similar for both men and women. They are, in order of importance: maintaining cash flow, time management, recruiting and retaining employees, managing debt levels, lack of monitoring of business operations to make improvements, and lack of knowledge about competitors and market trends.
Because our financing options are flexible and our capital is more patient than other financial institutions', we help entrepreneurs manage their cash flow and their debts. We partner with small and medium-sized enterprises to ensure they succeed. Our financing options are adjusted to their needs and we accompany them during hard times. We help them find solutions to their challenges when required and we help them grow their businesses.
Another tangible example of how we help SMEs innovate is our involvement in digital Canada 150, the government's comprehensive approach to ensuring that Canada can take full advantage of the opportunities of the digital age. BDC will allocate an additional $200 million under this initiative to support small and medium-sized businesses with digital technology adoption. It will also invest an additional $300 million in venture capital for companies in the information and communications technologies sector.
In addition, BDC helps small and medium-sized enterprises address most other challenges through our affordable consulting services. We help guide them towards decisions that are going to really boost their productivity to help the businesses become more competitive. Our financing can support the implementation of the advice that we provide to them as well.
As you just heard, SMEs are the lifeblood of the Canadian economy. They represent nearly 70% of the Canadian private labour force. In 2011 they accounted for 27% of Canada' s GDP and provided jobs to eight million Canadians.
Women-owned SMEs are defined as those businesses in which women own 50% or more. In the economy overall in 2011 they represented about one-third of the SMEs. That proportion has been relatively stable over time. SMEs owned by women tend to be smaller. Someone already mentioned that 33% of firms ranging from 1 to 99 employees are owned by women. When you increase that to firms from 100 to 499 employees, that decreases to approximately 17%, so that's quite a drop.
In 2013, more than 27% of BDC's client businesses were majority owned by women or equally by men and women. It's difficult to say why the BDC number is below the national average for enterprises owned or co-owned by women. One explanation would be that BDC has a greater exposure to manufacturing, where there is a greater concentration of male entrepreneurs.
In sectors or industries where there are more women, the BDC share of women entrepreneurs is higher. For example, 41% of the businesses backed by BDC in the tourism sector were owned or co-owned by women, and the corresponding number for retail is 37%.
On average, the BDC loan provided to women-owned businesses is $460,000, which is approximately $200,000 below our overall average outstanding loan of $650,000. This finding reflects the smaller average size of·women-owned firms. In 2011, for example, female-only ownership accounted for 4% of medium-sized firms, while male-only ownership accounted for 66% of medium-owned firms.
Turning to programming for women, the Government of Canada's offering in support of SMEs is largely gender neutral. This is to say, with important exceptions, it is based on SME programs of general application to businesses and entrepreneurs. Overall, BDC has also followed this approach. However, from senior executives in BDC to account managers, many BDC employees are reaching out to this market and are involved in grassroots initiatives to encourage and support women in business. For example, I recently spoke at a chamber of commerce where we addressed women in business and the importance of partnerships and building their network, so we're involved in that.
BDC has been active in the field of entrepreneurship. We have in the past offered financial and related services to meet specific needs identified for women entrepreneurs. This offer has included group training, individual consulting sessions, and mentoring. However, as the market evolved and other players such as women's peer-to-peer network organizations came into play, BDC grew less active in specific offerings to women entrepreneurs. This evolution is consistent with the complementary role we are mandated to play.
Looking forward, a key avenue to enhance support to women entrepreneurs could be through increased focus on sectors where they naturally converge.
In conclusion, I want to emphasize that BDC is proud to have a very strong relationship with thousands of women entrepreneurs whom we call clients. Should the standing committee have any suggestions on how we might better address this sector, we would certainly be very interested to hear from you.
Thank you. I'll hand it over to Julia.
Distinguished members of Parliament, thank you, and BDC, for allowing me to be here today.
It is an honour to have the opportunity to speak to you about my business experience with BDC as a woman entrepreneur.
I will begin by telling you about my businesses. I will then explain how BDC has made a difference in the way it has supported the growth of my businesses, and will finish by making a personal suggestion as to how the government could consider helping entrepreneurs going forward.
HCMWorks, established in 2005, specializes in the provision of consulting services primarily around the supply and ongoing management of contingent and third party labour costs, which also include organizations and IT services, for example CGI, and consulting services, for example, Accenture.
The clients that HCM supports spend millions of dollars in contingent and third party labour, from $100 million to as high as $3 billion. These include companies like Bell, National Bank, and Banque Laurentienne. Our teams help our customers reduce their supply base, which leads to fewer vendors, lower prices, and significantly reduces third party costs. The average percentages saved per year working with HCM ranges from 10% to 18% across as many as 1,000 suppliers per client supported.
HCM is a 2014 finalist as the top procurement global provider and service provider through procurement leaders, and is a member of WEConnect, an organization that delivers certification and support to connect women business owners with the growing global demand for diverse and innovative suppliers.
Payment Services Corporation is a company established in 2007 that specializes in the ongoing management of independent contractors and 1099 supply in Canada and the U.S. The companies that PSC supports spend in some instances more than $50 million a year on independent contractors that provide as little as 10 hours to as many as 200 per year in services to our clients.
The management of the availability of those resources, as well as contracts, contract management, and rate card management cost companies many millions above the should-be costs. That motivates our clients to outsource the management of these transactions and resources. PSC is the largest provider of IC billing and employer of record services in Canada, with over $100 million in annual revenue.
On behalf of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, or SSHRC, thank you for inviting me to appear before the committee today.
SSHRC is Canada’s federal agency to promote and support post-secondary research and research training in the humanities and social sciences, research that builds knowledge about people in the past and present with a view toward creating a better future.
SSHRC-funded research supports deep inquiry into the human condition in all its complexity and diversity, contributing to breakthrough insights into persistent social, cultural, technological, environmental and economic challenges. By investing in scholarships, fellowships and research training, SSHRC helps develop Canada’s best and brightest scholars and researchers into future leaders. It enables the highest levels of research excellence, and facilitates knowledge-sharing and collaboration across research disciplines, post-secondary institutions and all sectors of society.
With regard to the committee's study on economic leadership and prosperity of Canadian women, I would like to highlight our recent efforts in the context of two programs that SSHRC administers on behalf of the three granting agencies. Those two programs are the Canada research chairs and the Canada excellence research chairs programs, where we face issues similar to the lower proportion of women entrepreneurs on the research side.
Since its inception in 2000, the Canada research chairs program, CRC, has enabled universities to attract and retain top scientists and scholars from Canada and abroad, to conduct cutting-edge research, and to train and mentor the next generation of highly skilled Canadians. The Canada research chairs program has ongoing expenditures of about $265 million a year to establish 2,000 professorships across Canada.
The Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program awards universities up to $10 million over seven years to support ambitious research programs at Canadian universities.
There have been concerns in both chairs programs regarding the number of female researchers nominated by institutions. In the early days of the first program, the CRC program, the proportion of female nominees was lower than their respective proportion among Canadian university faculties. In the case of the more recent Canada excellence research chairs, CERC, program, all the nominees put forward for the 19 inaugural positions were male. So a number of initiatives were subsequently implemented to ensure more representative nomination processes.
For the Canada research chairs, I'm just going to mention a couple of examples. We collect and monitor voluntary self-identification of designated equity group status for nominees and chair recipients. We maintain direct outreach and education with post-secondary institutions to establish equity targets. We have launched an annual process in which one university is publicly recognized each year for exemplary equity practices in recruiting, nominating, and appointing Canada research chairs.
For its part, the Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program is proactively promoting exemplary equity practices. In its second competition, the CERC program has taken several steps towards this end. We require universities to report on their recruitment processes and outreach efforts. We have added the quality of the recruitment process used by the institution to recruit their nominees as one of the selection criteria. We ensure that expert opinion on equity is gathered during the review and selection process. We also provide recruitment best practices to universities.
The results of all these actions indicate the situation is improving. The percentage of Canada research chairs awarded to women has almost doubled, from 14% in 2000 to 26% in 2014, and in the latest announcement just four weeks ago, 29% of all chair holders were women.
Now I'd like to introduce two SSHRC-funded scholars whose research and expertise provide important insight on this issue. I offer SSHRC's assistance in finding additional experts if you need them.
First is Dr. Alison M. Konrad, chair in women in management at Western University's Ivey School of Business. Dr. Konrad's research interests centre on gender diversity in organizations. She has produced award-winning papers on gender effects on earnings, affirmative action programs, and gender differences in job attribute preferences.
Next is Dr. Catherine Elliott, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa Telfer School of Management. Together with colleague Joanne Leck, Dr. Elliott studies the challenges faced by women, visible minorities, immigrants, disabled persons, and aboriginal people in advancing to senior positions in the workplace.
Over to them.
Good afternoon and thank you.
I'd like to begin my remarks by emphasizing that there is a substantial amount of evidence showing that women who are interested in business are equally ambitious as their male counterparts and equally likely to desire advancement to top leadership positions, but several elements limit women's career progress compared to their male counterparts of equal ability and motivation. I will speak about two of the most important factors: first, unconscious automatic biases against women in leadership; and second, rigid systems of career progression.
Unconscious and unintended automatic biases are pervasive in social life. With computer-based tools, psychologists have documented that people respond quickly when asked to pair women with family and men with career. When asked to pair women with career and men with family, people are substantially slower. These response latencies demonstrate that in the structure of our cognition we show an automatic bias linking men with career and women with family, regardless of our intentions. This test has been run on tens of thousands of people, and the result is highly robust. One of the impacts on women’s careers is that people are more likely to associate men with success and women with failure in a leadership position.
In addition, people react in biased ways to women during negotiations. A review of 272 independent studies showed that both women and men are more likely to cooperate with a man than with a woman in negotiations. The impact is that women receive poorer material outcomes from negotiations than men do. Furthermore, women suffer social consequences when they negotiate. People rate them as less nice, more demanding, and are less likely to want to work for women leaders who negotiate. Men do not suffer these social penalties.
Beyond automatic gender biases, rigid systems of career progression limit women’s opportunities to lead. While the data suggest that the glass ceiling is cracking, there is evidence of a more damaging mid-level bottleneck in career progress. The mid-level bottleneck occurs for highly qualified, university-educated professionals who have moved past the entry level. At this critical stage, women are significantly less likely to be promoted than men. This career stage occurs when people are in their thirties and many have young children in the home. While some Canadian organizations—
I trust you'll cut me off when I get to the right place. Thank you.
Just to add to what Dr. Konrad said, what I want to speak about today is the need for this study. What I haven't seen recently in the last decade is a large-scale national study and research program on this topic, this at a time when women have retained some ownership in almost half of Canada's small businesses. What is notable is that the majority of female-owned firms are significantly smaller and less likely to grow than those of their male counterparts, even when we control for other salient factors such as sector, management experience, and age of firm. We really don't know why this is the case. This reflects an untapped source of economic opportunity. The Taskforce for Women's Business Growth reports that a 20% in total revenues growth among majority female-owned enterprises would contribute an additional $2 billion per annum to the Canadian economy.
What else did women business owners tell us? They told us that Canadian women are seeking more information about developing new markets and growing globally, and on how best to adopt technology and strategies to grow their firms. To inform these questions, it's unlikely that answers will come from analysis of secondary data. We feel that we need more multi-faceted models of inquiry, new diagnostics, and new perspectives. Here are two examples of how small-scale studies can inform policy and programs.
Our research has found that women's enterprise centres have a significant impact on the performance of their clients' firms. Women value women-centred programming, such as, for example, the ACOA-funded centres that we heard about, for many reasons. Along with the ABCs of business start-up and planning, they appreciate the opportunity to strengthen networks with other women business owners, build community, and better identify new markets, products, and services specifically targeted at women. This is how many are growing their businesses through these women-to-women types of businesses. Certainly, in post-secondary education institutions we could also learn much from how these enterprise centres educate and train young entrepreneurs.
Another example is in the area of women’s leadership attributes. We found that many women do not relate to the stereotypical language and images of the entrepreneurs as captains of industry. We see this played out in how women view innovation. They may describe themselves as creative problem-solvers, and yet they don't necessarily self-identify as innovators.
Probably the people who are focused more on sociology would be able to give you the answer to the second part of that question, which is what we could do to actually create that dynamic within our own culture.
I do think that when people immigrate they look at the opportunities that are available to them, for example, government programs that can help with financing. BDC's programs, for example, or the targeted regional programs that ACOA or most regional development agencies have, partner with the various immigration welcoming groups to help entrepreneurs of all sectors, including entrepreneurs from foreign jurisdictions, to actually find their way into entrepreneurship in Canada. Also, people do come with various high-level degrees and expertise from other jurisdictions, which they then want to apply in entrepreneurial settings here in Canada, in engineering and other fields.
We find they bring that with them when they come here, so it isn't necessarily something specific to having been born elsewhere. It's just interesting that in Canada we are encouraging women from all kinds of backgrounds to apply themselves in this area.
One of the interesting statistics that came to me in preparation for this was that the share of female majority-owned firm owners who are over the age of 65 has nearly doubled in the last four years. That's another statistic that's of interest, because women are tending to start businesses later and are actually interested in pursuing entrepreneurship later in life.
One of the things we can do when we look at an entrepreneurship strategy for women is to look at how we can encourage women in all different stages of life, for instance, ones who may be free of the child care burden because the kids have left the household, to actually pursue entrepreneurship and not create artificial barriers based on age or age limitations.
I think there is a dynamic with twins, honestly. Baby A and baby B; you probably know it. I'm a baby A, and I have a baby A, and I can see that competitive nature in my twins.
I think if you're an entrepreneur you're probably more competitive than most, which means that if you're skiing you want to win, and if you are doing certain things, even if you're not competing, you want to cross the finish line first. I think there is a big dynamic associated with that with entrepreneurs. I see that every day. You're in business to win revenue and ultimately win business.
I just want to say one more thing, because I don't want to lose the opportunity to say it. I want you guys to look at the Minority Business Development Agency in the U.S., and I also want to give you a little story with respect to my experience.
I have two competitors in the Canadian market that are actually U.S.-owned enterprises, 100% male-owned enterprises, that are providing exclusive services to three major banks, fortunately one of which is not BDC and another is not Laurentian Bank and not National Bank.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Ms. Julia Fournier: I say that because I think one of the things that I would really like to see you help major organizations in Canada with is buying Canadian, first and foremost.
Eleven per cent board representation in the Canadian market—
Thank you so much for being here today.
I really regret the limited amount of time that we have. Certainly, it would be my request that we perhaps bring some of you back at some future point in time in this study, because I know that you have a wealth of information to share with us and we'd like to capture that.
My comments are going to be based primarily on digging a little bit deeper in terms of what you've already provided, and to ask you also to perhaps provide us with some written comments after some reflection after today. We are open to that, and of course accept comments and thoughts or research, any of those things. If you are twigged by anything today in terms of what we've been talking about, please feel free to do that.
Given how much our demographics in Canada have changed, I would like to ask each of you to do some thinking around immigrants and newcomers to Canada. What has changed in the last 10 years? Our country,s demographics have certainly changed. In terms of your programs and the programs that the Government of Canada offers in all the different areas that we've been talking about, as well as obviously in academia, what has changed in terms of the way you are providing your programs and services, primarily, I guess, to immigrants, but also in terms of outreach to them? Specifically, do you market your programs to immigrant groups? If so, I wonder if you do that in the first language of those groups, because their English may be at 60% or 70%, and they would feel more comfortable using their first language.
The second question I would ask is around our global markets action plan which the Government of Canada announced in February to turn our 150 consular offices around the world into trade offices. Have you thought about tapping into that? With the notion that we have a huge diaspora in Canada from all different countries, how can you turn your programs and services into feeders for increasing trade for Canadians around the world? That would be my second question.
Now for my third question. Ms. Boutin—and perhaps, Professor Konrad, you can feed into this—are you aware of where in SSHRC programs or the chairs in academia researchers at their top levels have become entrepreneurs, or where in programs where we have funded research at the top levels, they're transforming into entrepreneurs or getting into the marketplace? For example, I recently toured the University of British Columbia with the Minister of Industry, Science and Technology. They are developing an incredible amount of new product. How are we doing that in Canada? How are women specifically doing that in Canada? I'd be very interested, and I think the committee would be in that whole area as well.
Finally, there's an incredible amount of expertise and knowledge in this room and beyond. I would like to know, for the purposes of this study and for our government, what you would recommend, going back into your respective areas and sectors, to us as a government? Where is the low-hanging fruit? What are the things that we can do to tweak programs, to increase application criteria? For example, where Ms. Gale is concerned with the federal Business Development Bank, where can we really tweak some small things in order to encourage more growth in this area, more prosperity for the women in Canada, etc.? I think we've touched on a whole number of different things. It would be great to spend an hour with each of you, but I don't think we have that time.
How much more time do we have, Ms. Chair?