Women in the Digital Economy



Speaking Points 

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, PC, MP
Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

Ottawa, Ontario
May 15, 2017

Check Against Delivery 

Thank you for that kind introduction, Victoria [Lennox, CEO of Startup Canada]. 

And thank you to Startup Canada for hosting this event. 

Tonight, we celebrate women who start their own businesses. 

But we also have an opportunity to reflect on the path forward. 

Startup Canada has released an important report on the use of technology by women entrepreneurs. 

This report highlights a gender gap in technology use that puts women entrepreneurs at a competitive disadvantage. 

This finding is significant because the global economy is now a digital economy. 

Technology allows companies to source their talent, goods and services from anywhere in the world. 

Technology also allows businesses of all sizes to achieve global scale much faster than they used to. 

That means technology has the potential to be an equalizer. 

It can enable women entrepreneurs to succeed and to grow their business at the same rate as their male counterparts. 

Today, nearly half of all new businesses in Canada are started by women, yet businesses owned by women generate less than half the revenue of those owned by men. 

I’m proud to be part of a government that’s addressing this imbalance. 

Through the Business Development Bank of Canada, we are investing $40 million to support women who start their own businesses in the technology sector. 

An additional $10 million will support initiatives for women entrepreneurs in all regions of the country. 

Let me share my personal perspective on this issue. 

My life inside and outside of politics is shaped by strong women. 

The women in my life have taught me to work hard, respect people whose views are different than mine and develop a culture of collaboration for success. 

Women make up half of our government’s cabinet.

When the Prime Minister appointed our country’s first gender-balanced cabinet, he sent a powerful message to Canadians and the world. 

That message was that our government considers the promotion of diversity and inclusion to be a core value. 

These values underpin everything that we do. 

In fact, our government’s recent budget was informed by a gender-based analysis. 

It marked the first time that such an analysis had been done for a federal fiscal plan. 

The idea was to understand how budget decisions can impact women and men differently. 

The goal is to deliver the best possible outcomes for Canadians in all our diversity. 

My life at home is also shaped by strong women. 

In a household of four, women and girls make up three quarters of my family. 

So I speak as the father of two girls, who are six and nine. 

Like all parents, my wife and I work hard to make sure that our girls have every opportunity to succeed. 

My wife is a strong role model for our girls. 

She’s an accountant just like me—only she’s better at it. 

I’m constantly amazed by how well she juggles her duties as a professional, mother and wife. 

My point is this: I have a personal stake in ensuring that women reach the highest levels of achievement. 

I want my girls to grow up in a country where the energy and talents of all the population are mobilized to their full potential. 

And I want them to see women from all walks of life reach the highest levels of achievement. 

Women such as Sue Abu-Hakima. 

She is an engineer and technology CEO—which, sadly, is still a rare position for women to occupy. 

Sue is the co-founder of Amika Mobile, a company based here in Ottawa that develops mission-critical communications solutions. 

Sue is a mentor to young women. 

She’s also an experienced and respected leader who has served on corporate boards for nearly three decades. 

And she has pushed for more women to join her in the boardroom. 

The same is true of Mary Jo Haddad. 

She sits on the boards of TD Bank and TELUS. 

Mary Jo previously chaired the board of the MaRS Discovery District, which is Toronto’s innovation hub. 

Before that, she held the top job at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. 

Canada benefits when more women reach the highest levels of achievement. 

An open society that values a diversity of ideas and perspectives is good for business. 

It’s also good for innovation, which is Canada’s path to economic growth. 

That’s why I have introduced Bill C-25. 

This legislation is designed to encourage Canada’s publicly traded companies to recruit more women and other under-represented groups to their corporate boards and senior management ranks. 

Too many Canadian companies have executive leadership that does not look anything like Canada. 

And yet, a growing body of research shows that businesses benefit from better performance and stronger balance sheets when they have senior leaders with a wide range of perspectives. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I know two girls with big dreams. 

They are part of the iPad generation. 

That means they have an insatiable appetite for technology. 

As their father, I want my girls to grow up and follow in the footsteps of Mary Jo Haddad and Sue Abu-Akima. 

I also want them to become leaders in the digital economy, just like the women in this room. 

And I stand ready to do my part to make that happen. 

Thank you.

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