President Donald Trump took a step toward improving his image among women on Monday when he acknowledged that unique barriers to business success do exist for women.
In a press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump said:
“We must work to address the barriers faced by women and women entrepreneurs, including access to capital, access to markets and very importantly, access to networks.”
The comment followed a launch meeting hosted by Trump with his daughter, Ivanka, and Trudeau of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders in the White House's Cabinet Room. The first daughter will continue to lead the group, which is “committed to removing barriers to women’s economic participation,” a White House official said.
The effort is a marked shift from the skepticism he attracted during his candidacy last year toward differentiating genders on economic policy.
“When it comes to categorizing people — men and women into a group — it gets to be very dangerous,” he said last summer on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.”
He was referring specifically to a policy that would guarantee equal pay for men and women, which Republicans generally do not support.
At the kickoff meeting of the council, he elaborated:
“We need policies that help to keep women in the workforce and to address the unique barriers faced by female entrepreneurs. And they are unique. We need to make it easier for women to manage the demands of having both a job and a family. We also need to make it easier for women entrepreneurs to get access to capital. And I guess pretty much all entrepreneurs, we have to help them out, because the system is not working so well for entrepreneurs getting capital. But it's in particular difficult for women, so we're going to get access to markets and access to networks.”
Council participants included:
- Elyse Allan, GE Canada
- Dawn Farrell, TransAlta
- Linda Hasenfratz, Linamar
- Monique F. Leroux, Investissement Quebec
- Tina Lee, T&T Supermarket Inc.
- Tamara Lundgren, Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc.
- Carol Stephenson, General Motors Company
- Julie Sweet, Accenture North America
- Annette Verschuren, NRStor Inc.
Implementing childcare tax credits and guaranteeing paid family leave are issues Ivanka Trump has indicated she will pursue in her unofficial role advising the president.
Access to capital for entrepreneurs, too, is an issue gaining attention in Silicon Valley.
Last year, the San Francisco-based TechCrunch's CrunchBase Women in Venture report found, for example, that between 2010 and 2015, women-led startups received merely 10 percent of all available venture funding.
But Frederique Irwin, who runs the Washington, D.C.-based organization “Her Corner” to help women business owners and entrepreneurs advance, suggested access to venture capital is an issue that has gained attention and work in recent years.
Instead, she offered the Trump administration a tangible goal they could realize: focus on issuing at least five percent of government contracts to women-owned businesses and work to grow that number from there.
And Stacy Kerr, a longtime Democrat and former aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, lauded the White House for putting the economic power of women on its agenda.