Here's What Happened At Trump & Trudeau's Roundtable On Women In Business

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This afternoon, President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of a Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders. To mark the new initiative, they also hosted a roundtable of female entrepreneurs to discuss critical issues faced by women in business.

The council's aim is to promote the growth of women-owned businesses, as well as to contribute to overall economic growth and the partnership between the U.S. and our northern neighbor.

Women's access to capital was a major theme that came up during the roundtable, a senior White House official said on a call with Refinery29 and other media outlets. Another issue that was discussed was helping women integrate back into the workforce after prolonged absences. Several of the leaders spoke about their companies' "returnship" programs, which include imparting new technology skills to those who have been out of the workforce for long periods of time.

The bottom line? "For those of us who work on these issues, it's not a woman's issue; it's good business and it's economic development for the country," the official said.

Trump focused on the opportunity to bolster the country's economy in his opening remarks to the roundtable.

"In order to create economic growth and lots of very good, well-paying jobs, we must ensure that our economy is a place where women can work and thrive," he said. He noted that women are the primary source of income in 40% of American households with children under the age of 18. (Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from 2013 confirms this — and it's up from 11% in 1960.)

Trudeau, meanwhile, acknowledged the barriers women in business often face. "Whenever I sit down with a woman executive, I know that she has had to overcome significant barriers that exist, and therefore is likely to have greater insight into how to help reduce those barriers for others, but also be a formidable contributor to the success of business and her economy," he said.

The women entrepreneurs joining the roundtable were primarily heads of Canadian companies. They included Dawn Farrell, CEO of Canada's TransAlta; Monique Leroux, chair of the Board of the Quebec Investment Fund and the chair of the Economy Council of the province; Tina Lee, CEO of T&T Supermarket; Carol Stephenson, a board member at General Motors; Tamara Lundgren, president and CEO of Schnitzer Steel Industries; Elyse Allan, CEO of GE Canada; Annette Verschuren, CEO of NRStor; Julie Sweet, CEO of North America for Accenture; and Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar Corporation.

Ivanka Trump, who sought to position herself as an advocate for policies that support working women during the campaign, was also on hand, though she doesn't hold an official government post. The White House official said Trudeau's team reached out to the first daughter and others to broach the topic and expressed that "because we've made this a central issue to growing the economy, that there might be some real shared interests here."
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