Press release

30 Nov. 2020 Montréal, CA

Survey finds public, private sector collaboration critical to support women entrepreneurs

Access to new markets critical factor to securing success in COVID-19 era

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Chiara Battaglia

EY Canada Specialist, Public Relations

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Related topics Gender equality

Access to new markets critical factor to securing success in COVID-19 era

  • 79% of survey respondents say their number one challenge is attracting new clients 
  • 56% say expanding distribution channels is top of mind
  • Only 36% benefited from a federal or provincial program for COVID-19 relief

(Montréal, November 30, 2020) A survey led by EY Canada and Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec (RFAQ) finds that the top challenge facing Canadian women entrepreneurs in the COVID-19 era is attracting new clients. Nearly 80% of respondents say that adapting service offerings and finding new ways to connect with potential buyers are their top concern, followed by the need to expand distribution models.

“It’s no secret that women entrepreneurs continue to face greater challenges than men to start businesses, scale up and access new markets,” says Anne-Marie Hubert, Eastern Canada Managing Partner at EY Canada. “Many government programs and investments have been made to address challenges related to accessing capital and promoting women in leadership, but COVID-19 introduced new hurdles. Collaboration between government and the private sector is critical to address the evolving issues women entrepreneurs face to help them thrive.”

“The post-COVID-19 relaunch has to take into account women entrepreneurs’ reality. It must consider promising possibilities, provoke changes in ways of thinking, and use fresh and innovative ideas to address new needs that arose during the pandemic. I’m thinking mostly of big businesses that could integrate more women-owned businesses into their supply chains. I firmly believe in an economy that is answerable and more reflective of society where women participate in economic development,” highlighted Ruth Vachon, President and CEO of the Quebec Women’s Business Network.

While women entrepreneurs make up only 16% of Canadian business owners, they placed 27% of calls to the Business Resilience Service support hotline — a joint initiative between the Government of Canada, Canadian Chamber of Commerce and EY between May and June this year — indicating a greater reliance on support and guidance than their male counterparts.

However, only 36% of survey respondents say they benefited from a federal or provincial government COVID-19 relief program due, in part, to uncertainty around their eligibility and challenges navigating the application processes.

“Tackling the challenges women entrepreneurs face begins by acknowledging that support programs can’t be a one-sized-fits-all offering,” says Hubert. “Government and business need to recognize that women entrepreneurs face unique challenges.” 

EY recently hosted a roundtable with RFAQ and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) to discuss how to effectively target solutions and offer support to women entrepreneurs, with a focus on increasing access to supplier diversity programs and accessing financial support.

While many companies intend to improve the diversity of their suppliers, the challenge is where to begin. Organizations such as RFAQ provide resources and certification to help, while companies such as the BDC offer coaching services and the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women program connects women entrepreneurs with an exclusive global community of mentors and advisors to help advise on accelerating sustainable business growth.

“Women have a vital role to play in helping our country recover from COVID-19,” says Hubert. “By working together to reshape programs and support that is suited to their needs and challenges, we hope to see a lot more women success stories. Because when women win, we all win.”

Access the full Women Entrepreneurs survey here.

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