In the run-up to International Women’s Day, Mary Ng, minister of small business, export promotion and international trade, made several stops at Waterloo Region businesses headed by women.
Kicking off the events March 6, she hosted a roundtable discussion with Kitchener-Conestoga MP Tim Louis, sitting down with more than a dozen female entrepreneurs at Driftwood Martial Arts in Kitchener.
Driftwood owner Adette Rice said she was very happy to host the minister, and to welcome many influential women from the community into her martial arts studio.
She said when she was starting her business, she was stubborn and refused to believe she could fail. This, however, is not how it is for every woman who tries to start their own business.
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“I didn’t have any role models, and it never occurred to me that I needed one,” said Rice. “I didn’t believe that I couldn’t do it until somebody told me I couldn’t.”
In addition to spending her time listening to a roomful of entrepreneurial women, Ng discussed the difficulties women still face in the business world and what can be done to further their contributions.
She said in Canada, only 16 per cent of small businesses are owned or led by women. This is in stark contrast to the fact that 99 per cent of all business fall into the small- or medium-sized category.
To help change the situation, Ottawa is supporting the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), a $2-billion investment by the government of Canada that seeks to increase the number of women-owned businesses by 2025.
After her stop at Driftwood, Ng traveled with Louis to visit other businesses in the area owned by women, including Lisboa Bakery and Roti Junction, both in Kitchener.
Ng noted that celebrating International Women’s Day is a big deal, but it’s also about more than just the one day.
“We’re sort of women 365 days a year,” she said.