How do women entrepreneur-specific business loans and support services affect business recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic’s economic impact?
The COVID‑19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women entrepreneurs due to structural inequalities (Government of Canada, 2020a). Female entrepreneurs are most prevalent in service industries that have been heavily curbed by pandemic restrictions. Women also have less access to capital and operate smaller businesses. Yet, the Government of Canada’s programs to combat the pandemic’s economic challenges focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with employees, which ignores many women entrepreneurs since they are more likely to be solo entrepreneurs or self-employed with subcontractors rather than employees (Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, 2020a). Moreover, while mentoring, growth opportunities and networks are important for entrepreneurial success, mainstream business support facilities and networks frequently are not welcoming to women entrepreneurs (Dobner & Li, 2018). The proposed study will compare the pandemic restrictions’ impacts on businesses and business recovery for women entrepreneurs who receive women-specific business loans and support services versus a control group in Metro Vancouver.
The conceptual framework that will inform the proposed research is the entrepreneurial ecosystem model: a set of cultural, social and material elements, and their interactions that can affect women’s entrepreneurship and inclusion within the entrepreneurial ecosystem in a specific territory (Cukier, Gagnon, Lindo, Hannan, & Amato, 2014; Spigel, 2017; Stam & Spigel, 2016; Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, 2020b). The findings will advance knowledge, showing:
– how cultural factors, such as values, social norms and attitudes about entrepreneurship and innovation, impact enterprise recovery opportunities for women entrepreneurs in Metro Vancouver, including access to sufficient financial support;
– how women entrepreneurs’ access to an entrepreneurial ecosystem’s social elements, which are resources consisting of or gained through social networks, including investment capital, mentors, and worker talent, in the presence versus absence of participation in a women-specific enterprise support program affect the recovery of women-owned SMEs from pandemic impacts; and
– how business advising, skills training and funding services from women-specific support programs affect female entrepreneurs’ ability to engage in entrepreneurial feminist activities and penetrate new markets, such as e-commerce, for their enterprises during the pandemic recovery period. An entrepreneurial ecosystem’s material elements include support services, markets and entrepreneurial policies (Spigel, 2017).
The research will be of interest to government and business loan and support service organizations. The study will ascertain how women-specific business loans and support services affect women entrepreneurs’ ability to engage in entrepreneurial feminist activities during business recovery, operating as agents of change to advocate for policies that meet female entrepreneurs’ requirements, which could inform the federal government’s entrepreneurship policy, moving it towards a more inclusive ecosystem model.
The study’s policy recommendations will highlight any advantages of women-specific business loans and support services to the recovery of women-owned businesses from pandemic effects to inform changes to business loan and support service organizations’ practices across the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Policy recommendations also will address any negative interactions among a women-specific support program’s financial, advisory, training and mentorship resources within networks for women entrepreneurs, so business loan and support service organizations can make program modifications to remove these barriers.