Minister Ng announces more support for women entrepreneurs amid COVID-19

News release

May 16, 2020 — Ottawa, Ontario

Canadian women entrepreneurs are key to our economic success as a country, and they make invaluable contributions to our communities. However, women still face unique and systemic barriers to starting and growing a business, and they remain underrepresented in our economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted women entrepreneurs. It has severely affected sectors such as retail, hospitality and food services—sectors where women entrepreneurs are most present. On top of typically operating smaller businesses and having less access to capital, many women business owners also still bear a disproportionate share of domestic work, caregiving and childcare.

To address these realities, and in keeping with our commitment to advance the economic empowerment of women, our government is taking action.

Today, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, announced that the Government of Canada will provide $15 million in additional funding to support women entrepreneurs through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES). This money will go directly to select organizations that are currently WES Ecosystem Fund recipients and will help women entrepreneurs through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the coming weeks, this investment will help thousands of women entrepreneurs and business owners navigate this crisis. It will help ensure women across the country—whether they're a restaurant owner in Campbellton, New Brunswick, a manufacturer in Prince George, British Columbia, or a retailer in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut—get the support they need through things like business workshops, mentorship and skills training to adapt to a digital marketplace.

This investment builds on a wide range of federal supports that have been brought in to help small business owners retain their employees and keep up with their operating costs. This includes the 75% wage subsidy, lending supports, help with commercial rent and deferred tax payments, as well as dedicated funding for innovators, entrepreneurs in rural and northern communities and Indigenous-owned businesses.

The government is also boosting the Canada Child Benefit for parents, increasing funding to address gender-based violence and giving a monthly $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit to Canadians who make under $1,000 a month—including entrepreneurs, workers and business owners.

Empowering women-owned businesses across Canada remains a key priority, and the government will continue working hard to ensure women entrepreneurs are supported through the pandemic and into the economic recovery.


"Women business owners and entrepreneurs are facing unique difficulties during these challenging and uncertain times. Our government is taking action to give women entrepreneurs much-needed support so they can keep their businesses open and get through this crisis. We will continue to be there for women business owners—and all small businesses—to help them all the way through the COVID-19 pandemic."
— The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade

Quick facts

  • In 2018, women accounted for 38% of self-employed Canadians; fewer than 16% of small and medium-sized businesses are women-owned.

  • Since the launch of the WES in 2018, the umbrella of contributions has increased to include new investments as well as additional funding to existing programs and initiatives. The total WES investment has more than doubled in size and is now close to $5 billion.

  • The additional funds include the following:

    • Export Development Canada: $2 billion by 2023 in financing and insurance solutions on commercial terms for women-owned businesses exporting or looking to export
    • $100 million through the Women in Trade Investments Program for equity capital specifically designed to help women entrepreneurs
    • a commitment to serve 1,000 women-owned and women-led business customers by 2023
  • The WES complements other government efforts to advance gender equality, including addressing pay equity, introducing more affordable childcare and putting an end to gender-based violence.

  • This investment will build on the success of the previous 52 projects across the country that received funding under the WES Ecosystem Fund. Of these projects, 7 are national in scope, while 45 are regional and tailored to the regionally unique needs of women in communities across the country.

Associated links


Ryan Nearing
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

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