New Report from Carleton University, BMO & The Beacon Agency Finds Female Entrepreneurs' Innovations Under Recognized

TORONTO, ON-Carleton University, BMO Financial Group and The Beacon Agency released a study that finds women entrepreneurs are innovating every day across Canada, but their significant non-tech innovations largely go unrecognized and rules around grants and incubators that could help often exclude them.

The report, entitled Everywhere, Everyday Innovating – Women Entrepreneurs and Innovation, delivers new insights based on interviews with 146 diverse female entrepreneurs across Canada, including 23 Indigenous women and a survey of another 1,000 female business owners. It recommends inclusive innovation policy from cross-industry decision makers to remedy the situation.

"We are proud to help foster conversation about what is needed to create better opportunities for Canadian female entrepreneurs," said Andrew Irvine, Head, Customer Solutions, Canadian Personal & Business Banking, BMO Bank of Montreal. "BMO is committed to learning from these discussions and using them to drive change in our industry that will benefit women entrepreneurs and support their success."

"This study shows us what women already know to be true: that there is much more that we all can do to support women entrepreneurs and business owners," said the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism. "It starts with a stronger support network, more coordinated investments and greater access to capital, but that's only part of the solution. We also need a culture shift. As innovation changes our economy, women entrepreneurs will be key to our future success. We need more women in business – for our economy, and more importantly, for our society."

Key findings
The report found that most policies and financial assistance programs currently equate innovation solely with technological advances, and therefore don't consider how women are innovating much more broadly.

Many of the entrepreneurs interviewed noted that they do not feel welcome or included in the focus of mainstream networks, incubators and accelerators. Indigenous women entrepreneurs noted experiencing the same challenges, in addition to burdens including prejudice and lack of access to business training on-reserve.

  • ●Ninety per cent of female-led businesses are in service industries where innovation extends from developing new products and services, to engaging employees and devising new ways of marketing and selling

  • ●Women entrepreneurs do not generally view technology products as their end-goal, but are eager and comfortable with using technology to adapt and meet their other business objectives

  • ●Women entrepreneurs feel restricted by many of the available incubator and mentorship programs which focus on attracting technology companies and have age limits for participants

  • ●Women entrepreneurs feel there is an underrepresentation of fellow female mentors and potential investors, which hinders their ability to raise capital or attract the attention of policymakers for funding opportunities

  • ●Some women entrepreneurs interviewed for the study said they experienced a range of discrimination and sexism, from comments about their appearance, level of experience, knowledge, and attire to a lack of understanding about how women's business pitches are different from men's.

"We know that women entrepreneurs are developing innovative approaches to business and actively contributing to growing the Canadian economy," said Clare Beckton, Co-author & executive in residence, Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work at Carleton University. "In spite of their important contributions, this report identifies why they are continuously and systematically underappreciated and what must be done to remedy this issue.''

"It is vital to fully recognize the invaluable innovation contributions women entrepreneurs are making in Canada," said Janice McDonald, Co-author & President of The Beacon Agency.  "An inclusive innovation strategy will enable female entrepreneurs to thrive and the economy to benefit."

Among the Recommendations
Everywhere, Everyday Innovating – Women Entrepreneurs and Innovation highlights the importance of a more robust eco-system for female entrepreneurs, supported by governments, financial institutions and actions of the entrepreneurs themselves, including:

  • ●The introduction of a government-created innovation framework that includes women entrepreneurs in policy design and commits equitable grant funds;

  • ●Work by financial institutions to address unconscious bias in small business loan acceptance, track payback rates of female entrepreneurs as a proof point to their growth and continuously explore partnerships and invest in programs that support female entrepreneurs;

  • ●Educating female entrepreneurs to ensure they are informed about options available to them, and establish relationships with banks and investors beyond when loans are needed;

  • ●Work from policymakers to deliver enhanced child-care and maternity benefits for women entrepreneurs who are primary caregivers;

  • ●Addressing the ineligibility for financing among Indigenous women due to lack of property needed for collateral loans if living on-reserve; and

  • ●Establishing training, mentorship programs and networking opportunities on-reserve to further improve support for new Indigenous women entrepreneurs.