Stronger Together – 2020 in Review

The pandemic experiences of women entrepreneurs are especially acute because of structural inequalities¹.

2020 – The year of COVID-19, was a difficult one. The impacts were severe on certain groups and communities, including Canadian women entrepreneurs. About 61 percent of women-owned businesses were challenged with the loss of contracts, customers, or clients and 45.7% of women-owned businesses reported that they did not have the ability to take on more debt.

However, what we witnessed during these past months has been remarkable. Despite being hit hard by the pandemic, Women Business Enterprises (WBEs) pivoted, made quick decisions, changed the way they interacted with their customers, switched to online shops, revamped their manufacturing processes to develop PPEs and other essential products and just stayed strong and firm in their resolve to continue and succeed.

Some positive statistics shared by Statistics Canada² reaffirm this:

  • 67.4% of businesses majority-owned by women reported that they were not planning on transferring, selling or closing the business in the upcoming year.
  • More than two-fifths (41.7%) of businesses majority-owned by women reported being able to continue operating at their current level of revenue and expenditures for one year or more, before considering staffing actions, closure or bankruptcy, compared to 39.9% of other businesses.

WBE Canada’s community – our certified WBEs and corporate and government members, worked together during these past few months to ensure that women-owned businesses continued being included in supply chains. Here are some great stories from our community.

We organized numerous events and webinars throughout 2020. The year started with in-person events, Breakfast with Brands – Financial Industry and Lunch and Learn – How to Start Your Supplier Diversity Program, in early March. A few days later, COVID hit and we, like all others had to rethink, replan and pivot. We changed the format of all our events to virtual and introduced some excellent webinars for professional development and mental well being of our community.

Here are some of our virtual 2020 events and webinars:

With almost 500 attendees, our virtual Annual Conference in November ‘Supply Chain Innovation – Decoded’ was our largest conference yet. Spread over 3 months and consisting of Forums for both our Certified WBEs and Corporate Members, WBE 2 WBE and B2B Matchmaker, the 2 day conference and “How To Start Your Supplier Diversity Program” workshop, it was packed with highly relevant and engaging sessions and panels and great networking opportunities. While our Conference recognized the challenges and difficulties faced by supply chains around the globe, conversations focused on the inspiring stories of pivot and impact within supply chains along with future outlook for supplier diversity initiatives in Canada and beyond. Attendees were able to hear from 40 speakers and industry leaders who shared their stories, experiences and expertise.

Our aim throughout this year has been to share information and resources, increase knowledge, build capacity and to help our community stay connected, stay engaged and most importantly, to not give up and be assured that they are supported through this challenging time.

2020 was a year of firsts for us – not just negative firsts of being struck hard by a pandemic, but also some positive, reaffirming and hopeful firsts.

  • We hosted the first ever webinar with top 5 Canadian banks on one platform to share resources and tools available for women entrepreneurs during the pandemic!
  • We hosted the first ever C-Suite panel on the topic of supplier diversity and advancement of Canadian women-owned businesses through procurement!
  • We launched WBE Canada Toolbox, Supplier Diversity Accelerator and Supplier Diversity 101:Supplier – important resources for buyers and suppliers as we continue including more women-owned businesses in supply chains across Canada and abroad.
  • We hosted our first 3-months long Virtual Conference – to ensure that our WBEs are able to join us while still taking care of their businesses and loved ones while staying safe.
  • We also became the largest Council in Canada – WBE Canada has the largest pool of certified suppliers in Canada and we are working diligently to increase the numbers of buying organizations in our community as well. This is one of the reasons behind our pilot Government Membership Program – as we aim to encourage adoption of supplier diversity within government organizations with significant discounts. Please help us promote supplier diversity with municipalities, local/regional public organizations by sharing this flier.

We are so proud of our community for not just enduring the many challenges and trials that 2020 brought us, but for making it a year of steadfast resilience and perseverance, a year of courage and a year of ‘stronger together’. We look forward to continue supporting supplier diversity efforts and champion the success of Canadian WBEs in 2021.

¹ Differential Impacts During COVID-19 in Canada | Canadian Public Policy, October 2020

² StatCan COVID-19 | Impact of COVID-19 on businesses majority-owned by women, third quarter of 2020, November 2020