Unleashing the Economic Power of Women

Just over a year ago, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his cabinet and was asked why gender balance was so important to him, he answered with the now-famous words, “Because it’s 2015.” After one day in office, Trudeau managed to catapult Canada from twentieth to third place in the global rankings of gender equality in government, with double the number of women in cabinet compared to the US.

The pride we feel over Canada’s leap toward gender and ethnic diversity must now be backed up with a plan to increase the number of women in entrepreneurial and senior leadership roles across Canada. The World Economic Forum has identified women as the fastest-growing economic force in the world, but this force remains largely untapped. We need to see more women entrepreneurs in all industries, including oil and gas, mining, engineering, and technology. At the same time, women who have already founded companies need pathways and resources to move beyond being solopreneurs to scale their businesses up and create new jobs.

The economic case is clear. The Canadian Taskforce for Women’s Business Growth found that a 20 percent increase in total revenues among majority female–owned enterprises will contribute an additional $2 billion per year to the Canadian economy.

A 20 percent increase in total revenues among majority female-owned enterprises will contribute an additional $2 billion per year to the Canadian economy.

NLOWE’s Drivers of Growth: Women’s Economic Forum will result in an action plan with practical recommendations to support the growth of women in business and in leadership roles in Newfoundland and Labrador. Here are some facts and figures about women in entrepreneurial and senior management positions:

  • Women-owned businesses make up less than 1 percent of the oil and gas supply chain in Newfoundland and Labrador. Most of our province’s wealth and prosperity is derived from the oil and gas and mining industries, yet women are under-represented at all levels.
  • In the Canadian technology sector, only 18 percent of the “C-suite” positions (CEO, COO, and CIO) are held by women. The technology industry is Canada’s fastest-growing economic sector and is currently valued at $250 billion. (Source: ICTC)
  • Canadian women are starting businesses at twice the rate men are, but their businesses don’t achieve the same growth as those belonging to their male counterparts.
  • We know that companies perform better when they have at least one female executive on their board. Yet women hold only 15.9 percent of board seats in corporate Canada, according to the 2013 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors.
  • Female majority–owned firms tend to be concentrated in specific industries, including wholesale and retail trade; healthcare, arts, and entertainment; and accommodation and food services. The majority female–owned SMEs are less likely to export, but are more likely to engage in product innovation. (Source: Industry Canada)
  • The first year of “comply or explain” regulations from the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) was 2015. The OSC’s new rules ask publicly traded companies to report how many women they have on the board of directors and in executive offices and to explain their targets for women in key roles.

Women board directors and women in senior leadership are connected with better financial performance.

A growing body of research in recent years is helping to make the business case for advancing more women into senior roles. It is clear that increasing the number of women on corporate boards can produce returns for employees, shareholders, customers, and other stakeholders.

Prime Minister Trudeau put the issue of gender parity and the economic empowerment of women on our radar. It’s now time for us to do the work and create an action plan so that Canada can realize the full economic potential of women in our economy.


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