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Queen’s receives federal funding for female entrepreneurs

MP Mark Gerretsen speaking at a funding announcement at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. Photo by Michelle Allan.

Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands Mark Gerretsen visited the Agnes Etherington Art Centre today to announce that the federal government was investing $3.2 million in Queen’s University and their partnerships with female entrepreneurs in Eastern Ontario.

The investment is part of the federal government’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), and is estimated to support 175 existing companies, work with 125 start-up companies, and provide mentorship to 300 companies.

Citing the barriers women face in the workplace such as the wage gap and inaccessibility of child care, MP Gerresten said the federal government was aiming to advance gender equality in the workplace.

The federal government’s $2 billion investment in the WES to help women start and grow their businesses by improving access to financing, talent, networks, and expertise is part of their strategy to reach their goal of doubling the number of majority women-owned businesses by 2025.

The investment will support three groups of female entrepreneurs: female entrepreneurs who have funded, co funded, or lead companies that are in tech sectors in Kingston and the region, Indigenous women entrepreneurs and in the Kingston and the region, and female entrepreneurs who are recent graduates from Queen’s University.

Women who were local entrepreneurs provided remarks on the businesses they were developing, the impact they were creating, and how the new programming can help.

Shyra Barberstock addressing the crowd after Gerretsen’s announcement on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. Photo by Michelle Allan.

Shyra Barberstock is President and co-founder of Okwaho Eco Source, Canada’s very first social network for indigenous people. During her address, she said Okwaho was “so proud to say that we’re able to partner with Queen’s and bring in culturally appropriate programming for Indigenous women in the region. This is an amazing, amazing moment.”

Following Barberstock, those in attendance were addressed by Lisa Hallsworth, the CEO of Rillea Tech, a company developing a software application to allow front-line workers to have easy access to safety, handling, and storage information about chemicals they may be working with. Hallsworth called on Kingstonians to “take a chance on supporting, maybe testing some of the innovations that are happening here.”

“The women entrepreneurs and business leaders of Kingston and the Islands make incredible contributions to our economy and community every day,” Gerretsen stated. “From tackling pay equity to modernizing parental leave, this government is taking action on gender equality because when women succeed, we all succeed.”

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