Empowering women leadership in agriculture and agri-food sector

From: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

COVID-19 has magnified systemic issues and longstanding inequalities, and the Government of Canada is working hard to provide equal opportunities for all Canadians.

Today, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, held a virtual roundtable discussion with women entrepreneurs from across Canada’s agricultural food chain, focussing on the opportunities and challenges that exist for them in the agriculture and agri-food sector.

During the roundtable, Minister Bibeau announced that Farm Credit Canada’s Women Entrepreneur Program has already helped 1,391 women with loans under this program, totalling more than $994.5 million. This is already nearly double the $500-million amount initially announced in March of 2019 for this three-year program, demonstrating the entrepreneurial spirit of hundreds of women in Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector.

This program is part of the federal Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, a $5-billion investment. In agriculture, there are over 75,000 female farm operators, representing some 28.7% of all farm operators in Canada – a number which continues to modestly increase. The Women Entrepreneurship Program is expected to increase this proportion.

During the roundtable, Minister Bibeau, in her capacity as the first-ever female Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, highlighted her personal commitment towards greater inclusion of women in the agriculture and agri-food sector. She stressed the need to overcome barriers to equality that research shows include: work-life balance, skills training, networking and mentorship, access to information management, and financial barriers.

Quotes

“Women play a vital role in growing the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector. Over the past several decades, the proportion of female farm operators has continued to increase. While this progress is positive, women remain underrepresented in the sector and continue to face significant barriers. That is why the Government is taking steps to promote and empower women entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector through various initiatives, and through conversations like those held during today’s roundtable to better understand and help address the obstacles they face. I am confident that together we can build on the progress made and strengthen and diversify our entire agricultural sector.”

– The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

“This program is a perfect example of the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy in action. Our Government will continue to help women-owned businesses grow and succeed in every sector of Canada’s economy, and agriculture is no exception. We encourage women entrepreneurs to capitalize on the opportunities that will come with our increased support.”

– The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade

“FCC is proud to contribute to the success of women entrepreneurs who
want to become more deeply involved in the agriculture and agri-food
industry. The response to our lending and learning programs –
specifically tailored to the individual needs of women entrepreneurs –
has been tremendous and will undoubtedly contribute to a stronger and
more diversified industry.”

– Michael Hoffort, Farm Credit Canada President and CEO

Quick facts

  • The Women Entrepreneurship program provides women with access to capital needed to launch or grow their business, along with tools, resources and mentorship.

  • As part of the Women Entrepreneur Program, borrowers can also have up to $1,000 of their processing fees waived to reinvest into both personal and professional development that best suits their individual and business needs. The funds, for example, can be used to pay tuition for a college or to attend in-person or online learning events. Farm Credit Canada has been offering a series of events to inspire and complement a broad range of meaningful skill development opportunities.

  • Over the past several decades, the proportion of female farm operators has increased. In 1996, women represented 25.3% of farm operators. By 2016, that proportion had risen to 28.7%, accounting for 77,830 female farm operators.

  • Farm Credit Canada is Canada’s leading agriculture and food lender, a self-sustaining Crown corporation with a loan portfolio of more than $38 billion, and 97 offices across Canada with more than 1,900 employees.

  • According to Statistics Canada, employment loss among women was more than 2% higher than for men in the first three months of the pandemic. Despite some recovery by July, when we saw that women (+3.4%) were regaining employment faster than men (+1.5%), jobs recovery for women continued to lag, particularly for female youth aged 15 to 24, the group furthest from their pre-pandemic employment levels (-17.9%).

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