B.C. Regional Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub launched at SFU’s VentureLabs®
By Shradhha Sharma
Reaffirming the Government of Canada’s support for bolstering women’s economic empowerment, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, helped launch the B.C. Regional Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) at Simon Fraser University.
The event, held Tuesday at SFU’s VentureLabs® also celebrated the university’s ongoing commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship with a discussion forum led by a power-packed panel of leading B.C. women entrepreneurs and thought leaders.
Minister Ng also announced a $16.1-million investment (part of a federal $2-billion investment to help double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025) to support women entrepreneurs in Vancouver and across Canada.
Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute is leading the establishment of WEKH in partnership with Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management and Brookfield Institute for Entrepreneurship, with SFU’s VentureLabs® serving as one of nine regional hubs selected as part of the new national research and collaboration network.
WEKH is spearheading a national network and accessible digital platform for sharing research, resources and best practices, which will enhance the capacity of women entrepreneurs and the organizations who serve them.
“SFU VentureLabs®’ mission is to scale-up world-class companies by powering up these ventures with amazing talent, technologies, entrepreneurial expertise, research capacity, access to capital, government assistance programs and international market expansion opportunities,” says Joy Johnson, SFU’s vice president, research and international.
“As an SFU Innovates program and world-class science and technology accelerator, VentureLabs® supports the university’s equity, diversity and inclusion initiative.”
SFU and VentureLabs® will collaborate with a strong B.C. women entrepreneurship ecosystem to provide a regional perspective and support and to strengthen and grow the WEKH network through workshops, events and regular communications.
Also speaking at the event, Erin Roach, executive director, Diversity Institute at Ryerson University, noted some of the common barriers faced by women entrepreneurs, such as a lack of mentorship and a ‘bro culture,’ particularly in tech.
“There is a lot of work to be done to build inclusion in the rest of the ecosystem, which should be inclusive spaces for women as well. If we are not applying a gender and diversity lens, then we are excluding women from incredible opportunities,” Roach said.
“That ecosystem approach in our view is critical, not just for opening up opportunities for women, but also for overcoming fragmentation and duplication in the system to make sure that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
Notable recipients of the funding announced by Minister Ng include the Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC), which has received $2.7 million to help improve the competitiveness of women entrepreneurs by enhancing capacity for export readiness, finance, technology, and business and networking skills; S.U.C.C.E.S.S got $1.5 million to deliver the immigrant entrepreneurship program in B.C., and the Groundswell Education Society was awarded $400,000 to deliver social entrepreneurship education.
Two companies based out of VentureLabs®, namely A&K Robotics (co-founded by COO Jessica Yip), and Curatio (founded by CEO Lynda Brown Ganzert), also received funding from the Women Entrepreneurship Fund to help them grow.
- 13.3 percent of Canadian women were entrepreneurs in 2016, up from 10 per cent in 2014 (Hughes, 2017)
- Women account for a larger percentage of new businesses, but their companies are smaller (Statistics Canada, 2018)
- Women are more likely to have a graduate degree, compared with men (Industry Canada, 2015)
- Women entrepreneurs are more likely to focus on retail, services, and accommodation sectors (Industry Canada, 2015)
- Canadian women who start businesses make 58 percent less than their male counterparts (PayPal & Barraza and Associates, 2018)
- Fewer than 16% of small and medium enterprises in Canada are majority women-owned. (Statistics Canada, 2018)