Women are creating almost half of all new Canadian businesses, but when it comes to small- and medium-sized businesses selling outside of Canada, a mere 11% are women-owned.

Why does that matter? Because, on average, companies that export make 121% more money, grow faster, last longer, are better connected within supply chains, are more resilient to economic downturns, and are more productive, competitive and innovative.

Bottomline: exporting companies are successful companies, and successful companies contribute jobs, prosperity, a more robust GDP, and economic stability to Canada. If more women-owned businesses start exporting, it will benefit everyone.

So what’s holding women back?

As you can see in our recent webinar, Women Take Business Beyond Borders, our research suggests there are two key things holding women back: access to networks and getting financing.

Having networks is essential for getting day-to-day work done and long-term success: networks not only help you connect with like-minded people, but also increase your knowledge, confidence and influence, expose you to new ideas and innovative ways of getting things done, and alert you to new opportunities.

But women often find it harder to break into networks for a number of reasons. Examples include the perception that there are fewer C-suite or entrepreneurial women to network with, or that women have more competing responsibilities to invest the time to network. 

Getting money to make money

Research also shows women are more likely to self-finance their start-ups and companies than approach a bank, which can severely limit company growth. At the same time, there is some evidence that banks are more reluctant to lend to or extend credit to women.

Overcoming the obstacles: Women Take Business Beyond Borders

In our Women Take Business Beyond Borders webinar, an expert panel discussed various ways women can overcome these obstacles and increase their participation in trade. Here’s a summary of the topics covered:

5 questions answered about Supplier Diversity Programs

  1. What are they? Supplier Diversity programs are initiatives by corporations to ensure inclusive supply-chain practices by sourcing goods and services from suppliers with diverse backgrounds.
  2. Which groups are considered “diverse?” Under-represented groups within business are considered diverse, including women, minorities, aboriginals, veterans, and the LGBTQ community.
  3. Who has supplier diversity programs? Large corporations and multinationals have them. In fact, 97% of Fortune 500 companies have supplier diversity programs.
  4. How can you get recognized as a diverse supplier? First, you need to become certified. To qualify, your business must be at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by one or more women.
  5. What are the benefits of certification? Certification will get you preferred access to Fortune 500 companies and key matchmaking events, formal networking and mentoring opportunities, plus training and educational workshops.

Want to do business with a Fortune 500 company? Go to the WBENC National Conference and Business Fair.

No, your business is not too small, and yes, chances are you are ready to export. Here’s a quick primer:

  • The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) hosts an annual National Conference and Business Fair.
  • It’s the world’s largest gathering of corporate and government buyers where delegates can connect with women business leaders from more than 18 countries.
  • It’s like a “reverse trade fair,” where sellers visit buyers, instead of the other way around. In this case, 4,700+ attendees visit the exhibits of 350+ Fortune 500 companies, who are represented by their procurement and supplier diversity professionals.
  • Programming includes networking receptions, experiential learning opportunities, and the ability to pitch your business to corporations and government organizations who are looking for women-owned suppliers.

How BWIT can help you BYON

BWIT is short for Business Women in International Trade, and they can definitely help you BYON, or Build Your Own Network. Part of the Trade Commissioner Service, BWIT helps Canadian women-owned businesses expand into global markets. Check out these opportunities and resources:

Let BDC show you the money

Not only is the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) dedicated exclusively to entrepreneurs, they have a number of programs specifically focused on helping women get the financing they need to scale their businesses, including a $1.4-billion loan fund committed to women-owned businesses over the next three years. Tap into these resources:

Connecting in Quebec

Le Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec is dedicated to the economic development of women-owned businesses in Quebec. They support their members in attending the WBENC annual conference, from preparation through to post-event support.

How EDC can help you avoid risky business abroad

Export Development Canada (EDC) can help protect your business with risk management, financing, and working capital solutions. Our Connections Program can match your company with key international buyers. We also provide an array of free international market intelligence and economic reports, including: