A report Wednesday on female entrepreneurs says governments should use their multi-billion-dollar procurement programs to help women-run businesses and female suppliers.
The study, co-funded by the Bank of Montreal, the federal government, Carleton University and the Beacon Agency, says women want to participate in procurement programs, but find the processes are too complicated for a small business.
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It said much work needs to be done to help ensure female entrepreneurs can fully contribute to the Canadian economy.
“We know that women entrepreneurs are developing innovative approaches to business and actively contributing to growing the Canadian economy,” said Clare Beckton, co-author and executive in residence at Carleton University’s Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work.
“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.”
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The report comes two weeks before the federal budget.
Part of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s spending plan is expected to emphasize gender equality and lay out efforts to boost the labour-force participation of women.
The government has been looking at opportunities to better link its procurement practices with its broader socio-economic objectives.
The report Wednesday made 40 recommendations to governments, financial institutions and female entrepreneurs.
Among its suggestions is a recommendation that all levels of government use procurement programs as a means to support small and medium enterprises and minority-owned businesses, including requiring supplier diversity policies for federal crown corporations and agencies.
It suggested simplifying the process to recognize different kinds of small businesses and acknowledge their limited capacity to deal with bureaucracy.
The report noted that most policies and financial assistance programs equate innovation with technology and do not consider how women are innovating more broadly.
It also said that many of those interviewed for the report noted that they did not feel welcome or included in the focus of mainstream networks, incubators and accelerators.
Some also said they experienced a range of discrimination and sexism including comments about their appearance, level of experience, knowledge and attire, as well as a lack of understanding that women pitch their businesses differently.