Silvia Pencak is the President of WBE Canada – the leading organization certifying women-owned businesses and facilitating opportunities for them to do business with large corporate and government buyers. Silvia is a passionate advocate for women-owned businesses. She has a proven track record of trailblazing innovative ideas and turning them into powerful results.
Silvia has over 15 years of experience of managing teams, projects and building partnerships with community, businesses, government, and individual stakeholders. Her work has positively impacted over 100,000 individuals around the globe. She is a founder, former director and current chair of the Board at the nonprofit organization JONA in Slovakia and she is highly engaged in many communities in the GTA. She holds Master’s degree in Education and she is a certified consultant, coach, trainer and speaker.
About your organization
WBE Canada is a non-profit organization, led by Corporate Members, that is opening doors to supply chains across North America. Our primary purpose is to certify firms that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by women. We thoroughly review business information and paperwork to ensure that only eligible businesses get our stamp of approval and get introduced into supplier diversity programs. Businesses get re-certified on an annual basis. Our rigorous standard of certification is recognized by such giants as IBM, General Motors, Toyota, Accenture, and top Canadian Banks like BMO, RBC, TD Bank and others.
WBE Canada is the bridge between corporate and public procurement and Canadian women business enterprises (WBEs). As a quality third-party certifier, we have been connecting them to corporate supply chains since 2009. We focus on building relationships, facilitating knowledge transfer and driving economic growth.
How it started
WBE Canada was founded in 2009. Our certification was built on the Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) US model and adjusted to Canadian regulations. Since then WBE Canada has evolved into the largest certifying council for Canadian Women Business Enterprises (WBEs). We are committed to supporting and advocating on behalf of Canadian WBEs in Canada and the US and we partner with the Canadian Government to inform our WBEs about international events and opportunities.
How are you helping business women?
WBE Canada is a strong supporter of WBEs and their inclusion in corporate and government supply chains. Our certified WBEs gain direct access to educational resources, our supportive network of WBEs, procurement professionals, corporate and government leaders. We promote achievements of our community members and celebrate their successes at our Annual Conference and through our social media channels. Thanks to our strategic partners we are able to create strong support networks, helping Canadian WBEs succeed in Canada, the US and beyond.
In addition to certification, WBE Canada delivers education, training, coaching and mentoring programs that ramp up the capacity of women business owners to bid successfully on large procurement opportunities. This support contributes to significant growth for women-owned businesses. The organization also facilitates the building of strong networks for women, by connecting them both with procurement officers of top corporations and with other certified firms in order to enhance their bidding capacity
What are some of the challenges that you deal with frequently and how do you face them?
Our biggest challenge remains low awareness of supplier diversity. While in the US supplier diversity programs started more than 50 years ago, Canada started to embrace diversity in the supply chain only about a decade ago. While more than 50% of businesses in Canada are women-owned, WBE Canada estimates that they comprise less than 5% of all domestic and international suppliers to corporations and governments. The result – women’s businesses don’t grow, big business misses out on value and innovation, and national productivity and GDP suffer.
It’s exciting to watch as more women access C-Suite and Board positions in companies, but I believe that the time has come for us to start talking about the place women businesses have as contractors to these organizations. Diversity and inclusion should be implemented in every area of business, including how companies purchase their goods and services.
This is a major change that cannot be done by WBE Canada alone. We need champions and ambassadors to help us spread the word and make supplier diversity work in Canada. We are happy to be part of the Supplier Diversity Advisory Council (SDAC) and partner with other certifying councils as we move supplier diversity to its next level. Some of our WBEs and Corporate Members are going above and beyond to join us at events and share their experiences and lessons learned in this space. We are open to collaboration with Universities, media and other influencers to help us support Canadian women-owned businesses and help them get access to opportunities.
WBE Canada is founded by corporations who are willing and eager to support Canadian WBEs. This would not be possible without their support. Our Corporate Members attend our events, meet with WBEs, develop and improve their supplier diversity programs, build awareness about the issue internally and on top of that support WBEs through their own mentorship and training programs.
We also partner with women organizations and trade associations in Canada and US. Our regional partners provide training, masterminding, event collaboration and more. As a president of WBE Canada I am grateful for these partnerships. As you can imagine, there is a lot of work involved in getting businesses ready for large supply chains. While we focus on supply chain education and networking, our partners help women-owned businesses scale up, access financing and find support directly in their region or industry.
WBE Canada also has an ongoing partnership with Global Affairs Canada and EDC as we support cross-border connections between US supply chains and Canadian WBEs.
Supplier diversity is the strategic business process of corporations reaching out to groups not traditionally included in their supply chains, including women-owned businesses that want to compete for contracts. It means implementing processes to identify, verify and match under-represented suppliers to procurement opportunities and then measuring achievements. Utilizing a supplier base that reflects the growing diversity of Canadian businesses in particular and the population, in general, makes good business sense.
It is important for Canada to mirror the growth of supplier diversity spreading through multinational corporations in the US and UK. Over 95% of Fortune 500 companies have supplier diversity programs that target historically underutilized businesses, expand buyers’ choice, and boost innovation, competitiveness and market knowledge.
With the trend towards contract bundling in the US, over 80% of multinational corporations are now requiring supplier diversity efforts from their tier one and tier two suppliers. They advertise this “spend” with diverse populations, and are taking their business practices global, setting new benchmarks for measuring and celebrating diversity in supply chain contracts they award.
Supplier diversity programs are still viewed by many organizations as social programs or unfair advantage programs for women, which is incorrect. Supplier diversity is about levelling out the playing field so that all potential suppliers can participate in and benefit from corporate and government dollars. It does not mean a guarantee of business for certified firms, it is about inviting them to a table and creating opportunities for them to participate.
I want to mention my personal favourite accomplishment in supplier diversity – City of Toronto. When City of Toronto started to change its policies to include diverse suppliers, it was met with a lot of friction. Over the years, staff at the City of Toronto did a lot of work setting up the processes, educating its own buyers internally, hosting events where buyers could connect with suppliers, all that while working closely with certifying councils like WBE Canada. Only a couple years after the start-up of this initiative, we are happy to see more women-owned businesses being part of the supply chain, being invited to lower-dollar bids and winning them. But most importantly, some of these businesses land repeat contracts with the City which confirms that women-owned businesses actually deliver great results.
There are many more stories we could share in the automotive industry – thanks to their tiered approach to supplier diversity or in the financial industry – as Canadian banks commit to supporting women-owned businesses not only through financing and education but also through contracts and opportunities, directly contributing to their success.
I am a strong believer that women need more than just empowerment. They need opportunities. You can be empowered 24/7 and it does not get you anywhere. Yet, when you get the opportunity, contract, and dollars in the bank, this is where you are able to scale up and grow your company, hire more people to support you, impact communities around you and set an example for future generations.
I have seen many women-owned businesses come back to the community and buy from other WBEs, helping them to scale up and grow. I see women inspire, motivate, teach and mentor other women. Each of us is on a journey. Women are driven, hungry and ready to tackle opportunities. Let’s create a culture where it is possible.
WBE’s Goals and Objectives
WBE Canada’s vision is to see empowered women-owned businesses with equal access within corporate and public procurement. We are on a mission to advance in economic growth across Canada through our certification, promotion and development of women-owned businesses.
We want women to know about the opportunities, be invited to a table and win these contracts. We understand that we are at the beginning of our journey. First, we need more corporations and government organizations who will commit to opening up their supply chains to women. We also want to see increases in their diverse spend….moving from 5 % to 10% and eventually to 30% and 40%.
I personally believe that Canadian institutions like Universities, municipalities, infrastructure and others should pay attention to what the City of Toronto is doing and join the movement to support women-owned businesses. We would also like to see large Canadian-owned companies to follow the lead of financial institutions and commit to starting their very own supplier diversity programs to support Canadian WBEs.
To achieve gender equality in 10 years would actually be a dream come true. Where I see WBE Canada after this achievement is in ensuring that this equality continues. There will always be new women-owned businesses needing support in accessing supply chains, introductions to large corporations and information about how the supply chains are evolving. I believe that WBE Canada will continue to be a bridge not only between WBEs and large supply chains but also between successful WBEs and those just starting up.
WBE Canada is a non-profit organization, led by Corporate Members, that is opening doors to supply chains across North America.
It certifies firms that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by women and introduces them to opportunities with corporations.
The organization also partners with governments, women’s business centres and other women-centric communities across Canada.
for more info: https://wbecanada.ca/