Procurement strategies to support women-owned enterprises

This report presents a summary of research about small- and medium-sized enterprise
(SME) engagement in public procurement. Strategies to increase women-owned enterprises’
understanding about, and access to, government contract opportunities are also considered.
This research digest is expected to inform discussion among WEConnect International Canada,
community partners and governments about the constraints and opportunities of public
procurement for SMEs, and in particular women-owned enterprises.
WEConnect International Canada seeks to grow women-owned enterprises by fostering
opportunities within Canadian and international supplier value chains. This non-profit
organization is part of an emerging network of affiliated agencies operating in the US, UK,
China and India. WEConnect International Canada offers women-owned enterprises the
opportunity to be qualified or certified as majority women-owned. Qualification criteria specify
that a business must be at least 51 percent owned, managed and controlled by one or more
women. Qualification is a prerequisite to accessing supply chain diversity programs of Fortune
500 firms.
To inform stakeholders, this digest entails a review of secondary research drawn from
government, NGO, and academic databases. Requests for related studies were also forwarded to
scholars, research institutes, SME training and consulting organizations, and trade associations.
Ten exploratory and anonymous interviews with policy experts and suppliers were conducted.
The report suggests that strategic SME procurement policy is an under-utilized mechanism
to enhance supplier diversity and hence, Canadian competitiveness. Furthermore, Canada will
not remain a world leader without results-oriented and gender-sensitive economic policy. This
is because the drivers of competitiveness are reflected in the ability of nations to leverage
human and managerial capital, embrace innovation, ensure that all businesses are tapped into
public and international market opportunities, and to establish sound financial and economic
policy frameworks. It is also recognized that the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises
(SMEs) is linked to Canadian prosperity and new job creation.
Women-owned enterprises are well positioned to respond to these economic imperatives.
Canadian women business owners are typified as educated and young, and are operating firms
across all industry sectors. Many are growth-oriented and increasingly engaged in global trade.
For many women-owned enterprises, supplying to government is a key market development
opportunity.

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