WESK announces new initiatives to help close the gender entrepreneurship gap in Saskatchewan

Saskatoon, SK – April 8, 2021

Today, at a virtual press conference, Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WESK) announced the launch of its new series of initiatives to assist in closing the entrepreneurial gender gap in the province.

This series of initiatives is in direct response to recommendations made by the provincially mandated and WESK-led Saskatchewan Advisory Committee on the Gender Entrepreneurship Gap. It includes the launch of a new digital entrepreneurship hub to provide curated resources relevant to needs at the various stages of the entrepreneurial journey. This digital hub is accompanied by the recently restructured membership packages.

WESK’s next initiative consists of the release of the Saskatchewan Women Entrepreneurship Charter. The charter is comprised of four principles to support women-owned businesses. Embracing this charter means committing to doing business with women-owned companies, promoting, mentoring and including them in practical and quantifiable ways.

The last initiative in this series provides a woman entrepreneur with a brand identity, allowing her to self-declare as an official Woman-Owned Saskatchewan Business, making it easier for customers to notice and support her. The brand identity also includes a supporter logo allowing organizations to get involved and display their support of women-owned businesses.

These initiatives illustrate WESK’s efforts to help address the unique barriers women face in their entrepreneurial journey, from start-up to scale-up. They fulfill its mandate to support the province’s women entrepreneurs as they increasingly contribute to Saskatchewan’s socio-economic growth.


“Today’s announcement is a substantial step in the right direction to help address the gender entrepreneurship gap . Investing in Saskatchewan women entrepreneurs is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.” – Prabha Mitchell, WESK’s Chief Executive Officer

“As an established entrepreneur, I am looking forward to taking full advantage of the new digital hub. The entrepreneurial journey can be lonely and distressing at times, this type of program is really helpful.” – Rauncie Kinnaird, Owner of Sandy Shores Resorts

“Tackling the challenges women entrepreneurs face, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, begins by addressing the barriers that make it difficult for innovators to thrive. As a champion of the Saskatchewan Women Entrepreneurship Charter, I’m committed to fostering an ecosystem in which entrepreneurs can continue to create positive social change in their local and global economies” – Jeff Pickett, Managing Partner at EY

Quick Facts

  • In Saskatchewan, women-owned small and medium enterprises only represent 13.7% of businesses, although a recent WESK-commissioned PwC report shows that these businesses contribute 26% of the total GDP and employ about 33% of Saskatchewan’s workforce, contributing $23.1 billion (2019) to the province’s economy.
  • In Canada, female-owned businesses contributed nearly $150 billion to the economy (2019), and could add another $150 billion by 2026 by advancing gender equality.
  • At current levels of women entrepreneurship, it will take 180 years to close the gender gap. Concerted efforts are required to remove barriers, such as financing inequities with their male counterparts for whom 24.8% of applications are rejected compared to 65.7% for women.

Associated Links


Josie Fries, Marketing Advisor, WESK

Tel: 306-477-6286 – Email: jfries@wesk.ca

About WESK

WESK is a non-profit, membership-based organization that provides business advisory; start-up, purchase and expansion lending; mentoring and networking and learning and training opportunities. WESK is supported by Western Economic Diversification Canada.

Above: The newly released brand identities, created by WESK, for women-owned businesses and their supporters.
Above: WESK’s new website, now a Digital Entrepreneurship Hub, complete with a business phase identifier and curated resources, tailored to phase of business.

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Saskatchewan Advisory Committee on the Gender Entrepreneurship Gap Releases Final Report to the Government of Saskatchewan

Impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Job Creation


SASKATOON, SK – Women entrepreneurs are major contributors of economic growth and job creation. In 2019, women entrepreneurs contributed $23.1 billion to the Saskatchewan economy and created 191,836 jobs. Yet, research indicates women entrepreneurs encounter unique barriers that hinder full participation in growing the wealth of our province.

The final report presented today to the Government of Saskatchewan’s Status of Women Office by the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee on the Gender Entrepreneurship Gap focused on levelling the playing field by outlining ten recommendations that support women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. 

“Enabling women-owned businesses to scale not only advances gender equality but also spurs economic growth,” said WESK CEO Prabha Mitchell. “If Saskatchewan accounts for 4.2 per cent of national GDP, there is potential for an additional injection of $6.3 to $17.64 billion in GDP by supporting women in scaling their businesses.”

The Committee’s recommendations were defined under the following four key pillars:

  1. Enhancing access to capital;        
  2. Developing scale-enabling policies;
  3. Streamlining access to data, programs and networks; and
  4. Enhancing awareness and support by building momentum

Evidence indicated women are less likely to secure capital than their male counterparts. One of the 10 recommendations referenced policy changes to creating incentives for angel investors. Research has shown companies with at least one female founder outperformed all-male founding teams by 88% over a ten-year period. Women-led businesses can successfully scale and incentives for angel investors provides potential capital beyond traditional financial institutions.

“When we support women entrepreneurs, we increase Saskatchewan’s economic growth and competitiveness and build a better quality of life for all residents,” says Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Office Tina Beaudry-Mellor. “Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan and its Advisory Committee are to be commended for this important study, which charts a collaborative course towards increasing women’s economic participation and prosperity.”

A proposed partnership with post-secondary institutions related to access to capital accounted for another recommendation. Financial acumen relative to accessing capital, and more importantly, increasing the number of female investors and leaders in decision-making teams is paramount.  The Committee recommended post-secondary institutions develop and deliver micro-credentialing programs to augment financial literacy as well as educate and empower women to engage in investment activities.  

The Committee, created by the Government of Saskatchewan in May 2019, had a mandate to advise the Government on strategies, policies and activities to close the entrepreneurship gap by examining gender disparity in business growth. The twelve-member Committee commenced work in September 2019 and concluded in June 2020. In spring 2020, the Committee re-examined the original recommendations to address the challenges emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Building a business climate conducive for women-owned businesses to scale also contributes to advancing the achievement of goals defined in the Saskatchewan Growth Plan.

Watch the live recording of the press conference here: https://youtu.be/3tgAOb7YVBs


For more information, please contact:

Josie Fries, Marketing Advisor, WESK

T: 306-477-6286

About WESK

WESK is a non-profit, membership-based organization that provides business advisory; start-up, purchase and expansion lending; mentoring and networking and learning and training opportunities. WESK is supported by Western Economic Diversification Canada.

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New Report on Women Entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan released by WESK during Women Entrepreneurs Week


SASKATOON, SK – The Government of Saskatchewan has officially proclaimed the week of May 17 through May 23, 2020 to be Women Entrepreneurs Week across the province. Women-led businesses have consistently increased and along with this rise is a significant impact to the Saskatchewan economy. In 2019, women-led businesses contributed $23.1 billion to the province’s GDP.

A new Women Entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan report was released today, commissioned by WESK, prepared by PwC, and sponsored by Conexus Credit Union, Hill Levene Schools of Business, and the Women Entrepreneurs Knowledge Hub. (Note: The report was commissioned prior to the COVID-19 crisis, however the findings are relevant and valuable in plotting a course through economic recovery to sustainability and growth.)

A key measure of a healthy economy is the creation and number of jobs; the report noted that 191,836 Saskatchewan people were employed in women-led businesses in 2019.

Prabha Mitchell, CEO of WESK commented, “WESK commends our Government for this annual proclamation of Women Entrepreneurs Week while recognizing the gravity and impact of COVID-19 on ALL small businesses. The report revealed though the majority of women led/owned businesses employ 0-10 employees, their contributions of 191,836 employees to job creation and $23.1 billion to our GDP is enormous and they will remain a pivotal segment in stimulating recovery in our province.”   

The report was initiated through the work undertaken by the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee on Women Entrepreneurship. Last year the Government of Saskatchewan, Status of Women Office announced the creation of an advisory committee to research and develop policy and recommendations on advancing gender equality in the creation of economic activity.

“The majority of women-led businesses in Saskatchewan are labour intensive, which means they are important and efficient job creators,” said Tina Beaudry-Mellor, Minister responsible for the Status of Women Office. “Supporting and amplifying them is critical, especially as we emerge from COVID-19 restrictions and look towards rebuilding our economy.”

The Women Entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan report findings confirmed understanding and addressing the barriers that exist for women entrepreneurs can improve opportunities for them to scale businesses, boosting economic growth in our province. 

To celebrate Women Entrepreneurs Week, May 17 to 23, WESK has a variety of virtual activities including two panel discussions with stellar women entrepreneur guests. The first on May 21 will delve into the topic of Rebounding from the Crisis – What’s Next? On May 22, the second panel will explore What it Takes to Succeed as a Tech Entrepreneur. For a complete list visit: https://wesk.ca/women-entrepreneurs-week/

For more information, please contact:

Josie Fries, Marketing Coordinator
T: 306-477-6286
E: jfries@wesk.rbdemo.site
W www.wesk.rbdemo.site


WESK is a non-profit, membership-based organization that provides business advisory; start-up, purchase and expansion lending; mentoring and networking and learning and training opportunities. WESK is supported by Western Economic Diversification Canada.

In the past 25 years, WESK has provided over $38.8 million in financing to women entrepreneurs and more than $30.9 million has been leveraged as a result.



Highlights from the Women Entrepreneurship in Saskatchewan Report

Commissioned by WESK, prepared by PwC, and sponsored by Conexus Credit Union, Hill Levene Schools of Business, and the Women Entrepreneurs Knowledge Hub.

Gender analysis of Saskatchewan businesses

Share/size of women-led businesses

  • 88.4% of women-led businesses in Saskatchewan have up to 10 employees.
  • Across all business size categories, the share of men-led businesses is greater.
  • Women are less likely to lead a business as the size of the business increases.

Financial metrics of women-led businesses

  • For businesses with 1 to 49 employees, women-led businesses have lower revenues than men-led businesses.
  • For businesses with 50 to 99 employees, women-led businesses have higher revenues than men-led businesses.
  • Women-led businesses are less capital intensive than men-led businesses.

Sectoral composition of women-led businesses

  • In the ‘Health care, social assistance’ and ‘National security’ sectors, the number/share of women-led businesses appear to be greater than men-led businesses.

Women-led businesses by city of location

  • Of the total Saskatchewan businesses:
  • 24% are in Saskatoon
  • 20% are in Regina, and
  • less than 4% are in each of the remaining cities.
  • Women-led businesses in Regina are larger in comparison to Saskatoon.
  • Women-led businesses are more often headquartered in Saskatchewan.

Contribution of women-led businesses to the Saskatchewan economy in 2019

  • $23.1 billion in GDP
  • 191,836 employees
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Recap: Third Meeting of the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee

The third meeting, and midway point, for the work the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee on the gender entrepreneurship gap took place on January 9, 2020.

The subcommittee on influencing policy, the second priority pillar, presented findings and potential recommendations. The discussions included the obstacles and risks of the funding environment when scaling; current policies and supports for businesses; and gaps in supports for businesses. The Committee identified a need for research specific to women-owned/led businesses in Saskatchewan.

Members are highly engaged and committed, with spirited dialogues on the synergy of all three priority topics; the first one examined was Enabling Scale: Access to capital, networks and Mentorship.

The recommendations of the Influencing Policy subcommittee will be reflected in a final report to be released in June 2020.

The Committee’s (SAC) next meeting is scheduled for March 2020, with a focus on the third and final pillar, Creating Awareness.

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Recap: Second Meeting of the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee

The Saskatchewan Advisory Committee held its second meeting on November 15, 2019. Presentations from two technology focused incubators, Co.Labs and Cultivator, provided key insights into the structure and supports available for business GROWTH along the spectrum.

The sub-committee tasked with the priority of access to capital, networks/mentors presented several recommendations.

The Committee’s deliberations included the challenges of balancing family responsibilities and business growth; knowledge and skills in relation to financial management; linkage and connections  to established entrepreneurs and recruiting advisors and mentors. There were recommendations for the development of comprehensive supports for growth/scaling up and collaborations with key stakeholders and partners to augment supports and training.

The recommendations of this sub-committee will be captured in a Final Report to be released in June 2020.

The next meeting of the Committee is scheduled for January 2020 and will focus on Influencing Policy.

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Recap: First Meeting of the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee

The first meeting of the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee, held September 13th following the announcement of the members of the Committee, focused on defining scope and outcomes of the initiative. All 12 members were present at the first meeting. It was determined that the final deliverable will include a three Pillar Strategy: Access to Capital; Influencing Policy; and, Creating Awareness.

Each Pillar will be informed by a subcommittee comprised of Saskatchewan Advisory Committee members and supported by WESK staff.

Chairs of the subcommittees are as follows:         

  • Access to Capital (including mentors & networks): Mary Weimer
  • Influencing Policy: Natasha Vandenhurk
  • Creating Awareness: Rachel Mielke

The Committee will be meeting in November, January, March, May and June with subcommittee meetings being held between the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee meetings. The Committee will develop a report for the Government of Saskatchewan  to be released in June 2020.  The Report will include short-term and long-term recommendations.



A Saskatchewan with a level playing field of equal opportunities for ALL entrepreneurs.

Learn more about the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee here: https://wesk.ca/sk-advisory-committee/

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Moving the Needle – Closing the Gender Entrepreneurship Gap

WESK and the Government of Saskatchewan announce the members of the newly created Saskatchewan Advisory Committee


September 13, 2019

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – Today, twelve prominent entrepreneurs and business professionals from the province were announced as representatives to the newly formed Saskatchewan Advisory Committee, whose work will shape and influence the business climate in our province for women entrepreneurs.

Prabha Mitchell, CEO of Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WESK) commented that it was a historic day for Saskatchewan and highlighted that, “Women contribute $148 billion to the Canadian economy, according to a 2011 study.”

“Advancing gender equality in the creation of economic activity has the potential to add another $150 to 420 billion to the economy by 2026”, said Mitchell, “and supporting women entrepreneurship is not limited to a gender equity issue, but is part of a strong economic policy.”

The Saskatchewan Advisory Committee Members are:

Al-Katib, Murad
President and CEO, AGT Food and Ingredients Inc..

Buettner, Adele
Founder and President, AgriBiz Communications Corp

Clark, Eric
COO and Partner, PFM Capital Inc.

Dubreuil, Janis
Partner, Allan Construction 

Hardy, JoeAnne
President and Partner, WBM Technologies Inc.

Hrudka, Christine
Pharmacy Owner; Chair, Canadian Pharmacists Association

Ivey, Adrienne
Co-owner, Evergreen Cattle Co.; Owner, View from the Ranch Porch 

Mielke, Rachel
CEO and Founder, Hillberg & Berk

Parent, Kimberly
Owner, Saskatoon Salsa Dance Company

Soulier, Alicia
Founder, SalonScale Technology Inc.; Owner, Capelli Salon Studio Inc.

Vandenhurk, Natasha
CEO, Three Farmers Foods Inc.

Weimer, Mary
Chief Member Experience Officer, Conexus Credit Union


The Saskatchewan Advisory Committee will draw on new and existing evidence, utilizing the expertise of the committee members to advise on the development of strategy, policy and action to close the gender entrepreneurship gap. The committee will also serve as an advocate on behalf of women entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan.

Minister of Advanced Education, Minister Responsible for Innovation Saskatchewan, Minister Responsible for Status of Women Office Tina Beaudry-Mellor was on hand for the announcement stating, “Our economy depends on the success of female entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan. This committee focuses on making sure they have every opportunity to expand their business by identifying and addressing obstacles that prevent them from scaling up.”

“It is a privilege to be collaborating with this incredible group of people to address the gender entrepreneurship gap – many of the effects of which I have experienced in building and scaling my own business,” said Rachel Mielke, CEO and Founder, Hillberg & Berk. “I’m proud that we are undertaking this effort in Saskatchewan, and I am confident that we have the individuals, leaders, and communities here to support female entrepreneurs, and thus contribute to what makes us thrive as a province.”

“While such an initiative encompasses diversity, inclusion and equity; let’s not lose sight of its impact on profitability and economic growth in our province,” concluded Mitchell.

The Saskatchewan Advisory Committee has been created and funded through a partnership between the Government of Saskatchewan, specifically the Status of Women Office and WESK and will continue over the course of the next 8 months.

WESK is a non-profit organization that works with Saskatchewan women to assist them with starting, buying or expanding a business and to achieve their entrepreneurial goals.

– 30 –

For more information and interviews with Prabha Mitchell and Committee Spokespersons, contact:

Josie Fries

Marketing Coordinator,WESK

Phone:       306-477-6286

Email:        jfries@wesk.rbdemo.site


For biographical information and photos of the Saskatchewan Advisory Committee members please visit the webpage: https://wesk.ca/sk-advisory-committee/ 

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Minister Goodale announces Women Entrepreneurship Strategy investments

News release

Government of Canada investing over $4.5 million to support women entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan

July 25, 2019 – Regina, Saskatchewan

The Government of Canada is advancing women’s economic empowerment with the first ever Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), a $2-billion investment that seeks to double the number of women-owned businesses by 2025.

Today, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Member of Parliament for Regina–Wascana, on behalf of the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, announced an investment of $4,648,377 in women entrepreneurs and organizations supporting women entrepreneurs in Saskatchewan.

The following women-owned or -led businesses will receive up to $100,000 through the Women Entrepreneurship Fund to help them grow their business and reach new export markets:

  • Prairie Berries Inc., located in Keeler, which will expand its Saskatoon berry processing facility to pursue export markets;
  • Hillberg & Berk Accessories Inc., located in Regina, which will assess and expedite sales of jewellery to the U.S. market;
  • Canadian Organic Spice & Herb Co. Inc. (Splendor Garden), located in Watson, which will purchase new equipment to expand exports of organic spices and herbs;
  • Clevor Technologies Inc. (Brillist), located in Saskatoon, which will promote sales of project optimization software in Canada and the U.S.;
  • Destination Leadership Inc., located in Regina, which will expand its coaching business to new foreign markets with the launch of an eLearning program;
  • Grandpa’s Garden Ltd., located in Caron, which will increase craft wine sales in Canada and beyond by developing a new product line;
  • Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds Ltd., located in Parkside, which will export sprouting seeds to the U.S. natural foods retail market;
  • Prairie Sun Pub and Brewery Inc., located in Saskatoon, which will increase the production and sales of craft beer with a new canning line;
  • Road Coffee Co., located in Saskatoon, which will expand its value-added specialty fair trade coffee business;
  • S & E Trusted Online Directories Inc., located in Saskatoon, which will increase IT services for market growth in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta; and
  • Three Farmers Foods Inc., located in Saskatoon, which will establish an international supply chain system.

In addition, the following recipients of WES Ecosystem Fund (Regional Stream) support were announced:

The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy complements the Government of Canada’s efforts to advance gender equality. These efforts include addressing pay equity, providing more affordable child care and putting an end to gender-based violence.


“Our government believes that women’s economic empowerment is not just the right thing to do; it’s good for the bottom line. That’s why we launched the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, a strategy that seeks to double the number of women-owned businesses by increasing their access to financing, networks and advice. It’s a smart investment with an economic and social return.”
– The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion

“The women entrepreneurs and business leaders of Saskatchewan make incredible contributions to our economy and communities every day. I’m proud to be part of a government that takes women’s economic empowerment seriously. From tackling pay equity to modernizing parental leave, this government is taking action on gender equality, and that’s good for Canada and good for Saskatchewan because when women succeed, we all succeed.”
– The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Member of Parliament for Regina–Wascana

Quick facts

  • The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) will help women start and grow their businesses by improving access to financing, talent, networks and expertise through an investment of nearly $2 billion.
  • The strategy will help our government achieve its goal of doubling the number of majority women-owned businesses by 2025.
  • In Budget 2018, the WES Ecosystem Fund was allocated $85 million to help non-profit, third-party organizations deliver support for women entrepreneurs and address gaps in the ecosystem.
  • In Budget 2018, the Government of Canada allocated $20 million to the Women Entrepreneurship Fund. Following the call for applications held in fall 2018, over 3,000 applications were received and over 200 projects were funded. The Government is pleased to be able to support approximately 100 more projects by investing an additional $10 million in the Women Entrepreneurship Fund. With this additional investment, the Government is providing a total of $30 million to women-owned and -led businesses across Canada to grow their businesses and reach new markets.
  • WES complements our government’s broader initiatives to advance gender equality. These initiatives include measures on pay equity, more flexible parental leave and more affordable child care.
  • Advancing gender equality has the potential to add $150 billion in incremental GDP to the Canadian economy by 2026.
  • Just 16% of SMEs in Canada are majority women-owned.
  • Only 11.2% of majority women-owned SMEs export, compared to 12.2% of majority male-owned SMEs.
  • The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Canada 2015/16 Report on Women’s Entrepreneurship indicated that, in 2016, Canada had the highest percentage of women participating in early-stage activity (13.3%) and the fifth highest in terms of female ownership of established businesses among comparable innovation-based economies.
  • Final funding is subject to negotiation of contribution agreements.


Corinne Havard
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada


Original article available here: https://www.canada.ca/en/innovation-science-economic-development/news/2019/07/minister-goodale-announces-women-entrepreneurship-strategy-investments.html

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Government Of Saskatchewan Supporting Women Entrepreneurs Through Creation Of Advisory Committee

Released on May 2, 2019, by the Government of Saskatchewan

The Government of Saskatchewan, through the Status of Women Office, is pleased to announce the creation of an advisory committee to examine the entrepreneurial gender gap in Saskatchewan.  The advisory committee is created and funded through a partnership with Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WESK).“Women help drive the economy of Saskatchewan in a number of ways,” Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Office Tina Beaudry-Mellor said.  “Our government is working to ensure the participation of women in the growth of our entrepreneurial ecosystem through many initiatives.  This partnership with Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan will help us continue to do that by examining one of the key barriers to scaling-up their businesses that we have heard all over the province, and that is access to capital.”The advisory committee will be made up of representatives from government, the entrepreneurial community, and financial and legal professions.  The entrepreneurial gender gap examination will take place over the course of one year, with the goal of helping business leaders and the Government of Saskatchewan better understand women entrepreneurship, specifically barriers Saskatchewan women encounter such as access to venture capital and financial support.


In Saskatchewan, 34,600 women are self-employed, reflecting 16.5 per cent growth over the last to years – the third highest growth rate in Canada.  Saskatchewan’s women entrepreneurs contribute to the economy in many sectors such as construction, manufacturing, health services, finance and technology.

“Supporting women to scale their businesses is imperative for economic growth in our province,” WESK CEO Prabha Mitchell said.  “Advancing women’s equality in the creation of economic activity has the potential to increase GDP in our country by $150-420 billion.  The endorsement of this priority by the Government of Saskatchewan positions our province as a leader in examining and addressing the gender entrepreneurship gap.”

WESK is a non-profit organization that works with Saskatchewan women to assist them with starting, buying or expanding a business and to achieve their entrepreneurial goals.


Source: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/news-and-media/2019/may/02/women-advisory-committee

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How can you close the gender gap? Yes, you


Saskatchewan can realize our collective economic potential — if we work at it together.


Even if our beloved Riders didn’t quite go all the way this year, Saskatchewan is a province of firsts.

Medicare, ATMs, air seeders, air ambulances, wind turbines, even Girl Guide cookies — they all got their start here. And Women Entrepreneurs Saskatchewan (WESK) has just commissioned and released the first public report on women entrepreneurship in Canada.

What did we learn?

Only 13.7% of small businesses in Saskatchewan are majority female-owned, compared to 15.7% nationally and 17% in the top two provinces, Ontario and BC.

42% of women entrepreneurs said financing and access to capital is their biggest hurdle. Not only are women business owners less likely to seek external credit, they’re almost twice as likely to be rejected for a loan, because of insufficient collateral. We know undercapitalized businesses fail. They have difficulty hiring employees, creating new products and services, and growing.

Women entrepreneurs lack networks, mentors and training — three critical drivers for business success. 27% of female entrepreneurs who participated in mentoring programs reported easy access to funding, compared to 19% of female entrepreneurs overall.

While women entrepreneurs tend to be more educated than men, they lag behind in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) degrees. For every four STEM graduates, there is only one woman — and only 6% of tech founders are female. Given the fast-paced digital revolution and its impact on the service sector, we need more women to pursue STEM education and create high-tech enterprises.

Immigrants are much more likely to become entrepreneurs than non-immigrants. And female small business owners are slightly more likely to be born outside Canada than male owners (25% vs. 20%).

With 16% of Saskatchewan’s population Indigenous (compared to 5% nationally), identifying and addressing the barriers Indigenous women confront in starting and growing a business here is critical.

So what can you do to close the gender gap?

Yes, you. This is more than a moral imperative. It is more than an equality issue. Closing the gender gap is an immense economic opportunity for us all, with the potential to add $150-420 billion to the Canadian economy by 2026.

Government & Policy Makers:

Saskatchewan data on women entrepreneurs is scarce. WESK urges our provincial government to work with business to examine Saskatchewan’s gender gap, build a provincial database to better inform policy and create an Action Plan for Women Entrepreneurs to boost economic growth.

Founders, CEOs & Leaders:

Diversity boosts innovation and growth. Recruit women as business partners. A 10-year study by venture capital firm First Round found startups with at least one woman on the founding team perform 63% better and tech startups with women executives achieve a 35% higher return on investment.

Hire talented women. Create opportunities for women to scale their business, career and skills. If you’re a male leader, “sponsor” a woman entrepreneur. Create opportunities for women to be mentored or directly mentor women. If you’re a female entrepreneur, be the mentor you wish you had.


Set a target to recruit more women. Then start! At the end of September 2018, the UK’s top 100 companies had an average 30% women on their boards — well over twice what they had in 2010 when executive Helena Morrissey started the 30% Club.

Lenders & Investors:

Fund women-owned businesses. Make the terms fair. Talk to your team about conscious and unconscious bias. (Are any of those colleagues women? Recruit more!)


Share this article. Read the report on our website (wesk.rbdemo.site/press-releases). Make a conscious effort to support women-owned businesses. And, yes, if you’re in business or dream of starting one, contact WESK.

When I moved to Saskatchewan in 2001, I was one of just 1,800 immigrants that year. Seeing another East Indian was rare and a big deal! Fast forward to between 2011 and 2016 when almost 50,000 immigrants moved here.

Saskatchewan is changing and I don’t just mean demographics. We are home to entrepreneurs of national and global standing (Rachel Mielke, Kendal Netmaker and Murad Al-Katib, to name a few), a burgeoning innovation and tech sector (Vendasta, Coconut Software, 7shifts, sMedia…), exciting co-work spaces and tech and business incubators.

No longer does Canada or the world ask “Why Saskatchewan?”. I say “WHY NOT Saskatchewan?”. Our province shows the fastest growth in women-owned businesses when you include companies women co-own with men. Why can’t we lead the country in majority female-owned businesses?

Together, we can. SASKATCHEWAN CAN!


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