By Laura Didyk, BDC National Sponsor for Women Entrepreneurs and Vice President, Alberta South
We all know the statistics on women entrepreneurs … Majority women-owned businesses represent only 16% of SMEs in Canada. Not only do we need more of them, but we also need to better support existing women entrepreneurs. Our economy and our country as a whole stand to benefit greatly from this.
At BDC, being the only bank dedicated exclusively to entrepreneurs, we get to see impressive women entrepreneurs day after day across our great country. They are changing the way business is done, and for the better. They are reshaping traditional industries, and innovating the way they offer services and how they run their business. Yet they are still struggling to access the support they need to achieve unfettered growth and success.
Back in 2015, BDC developed a comprehensive strategy targeted toward women entrepreneurs. We committed to increasing access to financing by setting a target of $700 million in lending for majority women-owned businesses over three years. We put together a pan-Canadian team of experts and champions to better serve the needs of women entrepreneurs. The result? We greatly surpassed the targets we set, not to mention doing so ahead of schedule.
Building on this success and based on our learnings from interactions with women entrepreneurs, we now have a new plan. This time more ambitious. Announced in the federal government’s Budget 2018, we have committed to deploying $1.4 billion in lending to women-led businesses over the next 3 years, doubling our previous three-year target. On top of this, we have expanded our Women in Tech venture capital fund to $200 million- the largest of its kind in the world.
We will also be coordinating a series of bootcamps across Canada to reach more women entrepreneurs and help provide them with the skills and knowledge they need to grow their business, in addition to expanding our free online educational content. When combined, both financing and advice can make all the difference for a business. This combination of financial and non-financial tools is key to fuelling the success of women entrepreneurs.
Another crucial element to better supporting Canada’s women entrepreneurs is combining forces with the various other support networks and organizations to amplify their impact. We cannot do this alone. Partnering leverages the individual support offered by each organization to the benefit of the women entrepreneur.
One organization doing great work in this space is the Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec (or the Québec Business Women’s Network). By leveraging both BDC and RFAQ’s respective expertise and networks, Québec women business owners have been able to expand beyond Canadian borders and integrate into large international supply chains.
For Canada to increase its competitiveness on the world stage, women entrepreneurs need to be a bigger part of the picture. Canada as a country stands only to gain from an increased number of women-led businesses and their growth. As mentioned, by working together we can provide them with the support they need to scale and grow.
Laura Didyk is BDC’s Vice President for Alberta South as well as the bank’s National sponsor women entrepreneurs. Laura has worked with thousands of business owners throughout her career at BDC and is passionate about helping women entrepreneurs access the advice and capital they need to grow and succeed. To learn more about BDC, visit bdc.ca/woman