What is the typical Canadian woman in a business like? What kinds of businesses do Canadian women entrepreneurs choose to start and develop? How many women-owned businesses are there in Canada?

Canadian Women in Business in Summary:

  • The numbers of Canadian women entrepreneurs are still growing.
  • On average, women business owners are younger and have fewer years of management or ownership experience compared with male business owners.
  • Women entrepreneurs are much more likely to choose to start and run small businesses in the retail and service sectors.
  • Women entrepreneurs do not make as much money as male entrepreneurs although the gap appears to be closing.
  • Canadian women business owners are on average less likely to engage in international trade compared to Canadian male business owners.

Statistics on Canadian Women in Business by Source

Facts and Figures on Canadian Women Entrepreneurs

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, 2013

  • There were 950,000 self-employed women in Canada in 2012, accounting for 35.6% of all self-employed persons.
  • In 2010, Quebec had the highest proportion of majority-owned female SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprise) at 19 percent, followed by Atlantic Canada, Ontario, and then the Prairies and British Columbia.
  • 47% are SME’s were entirely or partly owned by women.
  • The proportion of women-owned businesses that plan to expand their business is generally higher than men.
  • Approximately 51% of Aboriginal-owned SMEs belong partly or wholly to women.
  • Among established businesses (non-start-ups), the percentage of female entrepreneurs rose from 27% in the early 1990s to 33% in 2012.
  • The average net profit before tax of female-owned businesses has increased from 52% of male-owned business profits in 2000 to 89% in 2007.
  • Majority female-owned firms with growth intentions are significantly more active in hiring new employees than majority male-owned firms.
  • Majority women-owned SMEs represented over $117 billion per annum of economic activity in Canada.
  • A greater concentration of women-run SMEs is present in certain sectors, such as professional services, accommodation, and food services.
  • The percentage of young women (25-34) with a post-secondary degree or diploma has increased from 43% in 1990 to 71% in 2013.

Women Entrepreneurs. Small Business Financing Profile.

Jung, Owen. (2010). Ottawa: Industry Canada Small Business and Tourism Branch, October 2010.

  • Majority female-owned SMEs (i.e., 51 to 100 percent of the ownership of the business is held by women) constituted 16 percent of SMEs in Canada in 2007.
  • From 1999 to 2009, the number of self-employed women grew by 13 percent compared with 10 percent for men.
  • Women business owners were generally younger than their male counterparts in 2007, averaging 48.5 years of age compared with 51.1 years of age for male business owners.
  • In 2007, 51 percent of women business owners had more than 10 years of management or ownership experience compared with 74 percent of male business owners.
  • Historically, majority women-owned SMEs have been concentrated in the retail and service sectors (Carter 2002). In 2007, majority female-owned SMEs still tended to favor sectors related to wholesale/retail (17 percent), professional services (15 percent) and tourism (13 percent).
  • The percentage of majority women-owned SMEs that were micro-businesses (fewer than five employees) was 81 percent in 2007, just higher than 79 percent for majority male-owned micro-businesses.
  • The average total revenue generated by majority women-owned firms in 2007 was half of that reported by majority male-owned firms.
  • Majority female-owned firms were just as likely to seek to finance as majority male-owned firms in 2007 but were less likely to be approved for debt financing than majority male-owned firms.
  • In 2007, 44 percent of female business owners operating majority women-owned businesses indicated that they intended to expand the size and scope of their business within two years, compared to 38 percent of majority male-owned businesses.
  • In 2007, rising business costs were the top perceived obstacle to growth for both majority female-owned and majority male-owned firms; however, female business owners appeared to be more concerned about this obstacle than male business owners.

Action Strategies to Support Women’s Enterprise Development

The Canadian Taskforce for Women’s Business Growth. November 2011.

  • In 2010, over 900,000 of the 2.6 million self-employed workers in Canada were women.
  • Canadian women business owners are on average less likely to engage in international trade compared to male counterparts.

Key Small Business Statistics July 2012

Statistics Canada.

  • There were 910 000 self-employed women in Canada in 2008, accounting for about one-third of all self-employed persons.
  • Between 1998 and 2008, the number of self-employed women grew by 6.4 percent compared with 11-percent growth in male self-employment.
  • Accommodation and food services industries have the highest share of businesses that are majority-owned by females, at 22 percent.

Women Entrepreneurs of Canada

December 11th, 2007.

  • 84% of women feel their business has reached a size they are comfortable with and don’t want to grow, as compared to 37% for men.
  • Women are also more likely to operate businesses in the service sectors rather than in knowledge and manufacturing industries, which traditionally enjoy higher growth potential and profitability.

Canadian Women Entrepreneurs, Research and Public Policy: A Review of Literature

Barbara Orser. Tefler School of Management. The University of Ottawa. November 2007.

Because this is a literature review, I have followed each quote from Ms. Orser’s report with the complete references she refers to, as she cited them in the appendices of her paper.

  • “The majority of majority women-owned firms (85 percent) are micro- businesses employing fewer than 5 people (Carrington, 2006)”(p. 15).
  • “Women are significantly more likely to operate firms in the services sectors and less likely to operate knowledge-based industries and manufacturing operations. The most common service sectors for women entrepreneurs were wholesale/retail, professional services and information/culture/real estate. (Carrington, 2006)” (p. 17).
  • “The majority of self-employed women (62.7 percent) remain unincorporated solo workers concentrated within personal services and retail sales sectors (Hughes, 1999; 2006)” (p. 17).
  • “Canada is a global leader in women’s entrepreneurship (GEM, 2000). The participation rates of Canadian women business owners are comparable to those in the United States and higher than those of other leading nations such as Denmark, Finland, and New Zealand (Brush, Carter, Gatewood, Greene, & Hart, 2006)

Are Women Shortchanging Themselves?

Paul Lima. Globeandmail.com Business. November 10, 2006.

  • a flexible work schedule is a greater motivator for women planning to open their own business (63%) than for men planning to do so (51%).
  • 36 percent of men planning to open a business plan to do so to become wealthy, while only 23 percent of women planning to open a business do so for the same reason.
  • The majority of women and men entrepreneurs (69 and 64 percent respectively) seem to be equally driven by a love for what they do or hope to do.
  • Women are less likely than men to start a business because they want to be their own boss. Women are more likely to employ a spouse or a child and to be first-time business owners.
  • Virtually equal amounts of male and female entrepreneurs listed their three main challenges faced when starting up a business as finding clients; keeping a steady workload and working long hours.