Female entrepreneurship matters. Women-led businesses find new ways of innovating, cater to a more diverse and representative clientele, add important perspectives to decision-making, raise standards for workplace equity and strengthen our economy.

But we’ve seen the stats: there’s a huge gap in funding compared to their male counterparts.

Only 2.2% of venture capital funding went toward female-founded companies last year, according to data from PitchBook. In total, they landed just 4.4% of all deals. And those that were funded saw significantly less per deal than male-founded companies.

Those numbers are based in the U.S. but they matter here, too. Women lead about half of all new business in Canada, create more jobs and survive longer, says a report sponsored by the Canadian government that offers 37 recommendations on how we can improve the landscape for our female innovators.

So, what are we doing for women who start businesses here in Canada – and more specifically, in Guelph and Wellington county?

It’s a key driver for us federally and provincially

Both the federal and Ontario government have identified supporting female entrepreneurs as a critical path to creating a competitive and successful economy.

If you followed the federal budget this year, you would have noticed a big move toward improving women’s representation in business ownership, to the tune of $1.65 billion in new funding.

That breaks down into a couple of different categories and programs:

  • New funding for female-run businesses through BDC
  • Additional funding support for women who launch tech companies
  • Investments earmarked for female business owners through regional development agencies
  • Export support for female-run international businesses
  • A minimum mandate for female-run providers supplying the Canadian government

The Ontario government also runs a microlending program that gives low-income women small loans to help start their businesses and also provides training in financial literacy, mentoring and life skills.

Of course, it’s not only about the money. There are great Canadian groups out there that support women starting their own businesses in other ways, like BDC’s bootcamps announced in the federal budget, Ontario’s Investing in Women’s Futures program, the Trade Commissioner’s Business Women in International Trade program and the CanWIT (Women in Tech) networking group, to name a few.

We’re moving the needle here at home, too

When Innovation Guelph first opened its doors, we had only a handful of female business owners on our roster. Since then, we’ve been working hard to grow that number, making it a point to become a leader in supporting women.

Today’s numbers tell the story of how far we’ve come. As of March 31, 2018, female founders make up:

  • 48.5% of our current active startup clients
  • 35% of our entire active client base (that includes 66 small and medium-sized enterprises)
  • 29% of our active information and communications tech clients

Through programs focused on women entrepreneurs, like The Rhyze Project, and by consciously making all our business support programs accessible and female-friendly, we’re helping to move the needle on women’s entrepreneurship in Ontario.