This guest blog post is provided by the Business Women in International Trade (BWIT), a program within the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) at Global Affairs Canada, which supports Canadian women entrepreneurs as they pursue opportunities in international markets.
 
In the spirit of International Women's Day (IWD), which was recognized earlier this month, the Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) program at Global Affairs Canada would like to take this opportunity to congratulate women-owned businesses across Canada. IWD is meant as a day of reflection, for all of us to take a step back and look at our accomplishments. It is a time to take pride in the creativity and tenacity of the women who turn ideas into action to help grow the Canadian economy. There are hurdles and challenges to overcome when leading a business, especially when looking to expand internationally and that is where BWIT can play a role in helping you navigate export opportunities.
 
This year's campaign theme for International Women's Day was Be Bold For Change. The call-out was for each and every one of us to be bold and help forge a better, gender-inclusive, professional world. The BWIT team applauds those behind this movement and those who have used this vehicle as a catalyst to make progressive change possible.

Through purposeful collaboration, the BWIT team has been supporting Canadian business women by providing them with export information and resources, flagging and creating business-growth opportunities, and helping them to realize their limitless potential by expanding beyond Canada's borders. As the BWIT program celebrates 20 years of supporting business women, we remain committed to helping you in your journey to grow internationally. We are proud of the headway and accomplishments that the program has made on your behalf over the past year.

Strides made by BWIT over the past year:

  1. BWIT played a key role in facilitating the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to support the growth of women-owned businesses in North America. The goal of the MOU is to advance gender equality and women's economic empowerment through partnerships, support, mentorship, trade missions and resources that will help women entrepreneurs connect with buyers and suppliers.
  2. In June 2016, BWIT led the first women focused, dual city trade mission to the Women in Business North America Summit (Atlanta), and to the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference and Business (Orlando). The trade mission featured business-to-business meetings with Fortune 500 companies resulting in business leads and contracts. The trade mission also included a strong educational and mentorship component and fostered a positive atmosphere for delegates to scale their professional network.
  3. On March 7 the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade, hosted a roundtable that included high-impact women entrepreneurs and representatives of women-run national advocacy and support organizations that currently engage with the BWIT program. The event provided an opportunity for the Minister to hear about challenges experienced by women-owned businesses trying to break into markets beyond Canada's borders and how we can better meet their needs‎ to improve their participation in exporting.
  4. Global Affairs Canada's Office of the Chief Economist published a report showcasing the barriers that women entrepreneurs experience while seeking to export. The report found that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) owned by women represented 15.7% of all SMEs in Canada, and 11.1% of exporting SMEs in 2014. Female SMEs exhibit a number of characteristics that are common to SMEs more generally: exporters are larger and have owners with more education and experience than non-exporters. Likewise, women exporters are located in export-intensive industries, such as professional and technical services, manufacturing and wholesale trade. The report concluded by saying that exporters are some of the strongest firms in the economy and that it is important that female SMEs look to exporting as an opportunity to expand their businesses.

Though this past year was filled with great strides for the BWIT program, we need your help to expand our reach in order to assist more women entrepreneurs in exporting. In the spirit of International Women's Day, whether you are a women-owned business, a corporation, or a potential support organization for these businesses, we ask you to #BeBoldForChange by exporting, including women businesses in your supply chain, or supporting these businesses in finding growth opportunities. Connect with BWIT to find out how you can truly #BeBoldforChange when it comes to #womenexporters #EqualityMatters.

How we can help:

If you are looking to export or learn more about the BWIT program, please email us bwit@international.gc.ca. You may also visit our website businesswomenintrade.gc.ca which serves as a one-stop-shop for Canadian women entrepreneurs interested in pursuing export opportunities.

Additional products and services:

  • Read the 2017 20th Anniversary edition of our BWIT Newsletter
  • Join our BWIT LinkedIn Group
  • Sign up for BWIT News to receive monthly updates about upcoming trade missions and opportunities opened to women entrepreneurs
  • Register for the Women-Owned Business Directory: a free specialized online tool to promote, partner and secure contracts with over 5 million visitors annually
  • Tweet about topics, opportunities or information relevant to women-owned businesses using our hashtag #womenexporters