Statistics on Canadian Women in Business

What women entrepreneurs in Canada are like

Young woman sitting with mug in home office
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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?

We've put together this collection of statistics on Canadian women in business to answer these questions and others like them. You can use them for market research or reports if you like, as long as you properly cite the sources.

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 who start businesses make 58% less than their male counterparts.
  • Canadian women are more likely to be solo entrepreneurs

Statistics on Canadian Women in Business by Source

Facts and Figures on Canadian Women Entrepreneurs

From the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Canada Report on Women's Entrepreneurship:

  • Nearly 85% of Canadian women surveyed indicated they were interested in starting a business.
  • Most are highly educated - the vast majority having college diplomas or university degrees.
  • 13.3% were involved in newer businesses and 10% in established businesses (those operating for more than 3.5 years). For men the figures were 20.3% and 7.1%, respectively.
  • Globally, Canadian women rank 1st in terms of involvement with newer businesses, ahead of the U.S., Britain, and other innovation-based economies, and 6th for established businesses.
  • The consumer services sector accounts for over half (54.4%) of early-stage female businesses, followed by business services at 28.2%.
  • Female business owners are on average less likely to engage in international trade than their male counterparts. For businesses that had 25% or more of their customer base outside the country, 31.7% were run by women and 37% by men.
  • 35.9% of women owned new businesses were engaged in innovation, versus 44.0% for male owned businesses.
  • The gap in expected job creation for established male and female firms has narrowed from previous years - expectations for the next five years were roughly the same. For early-stage businesses the expectations for job growth is higher for male firms (35.6% vs 21.4%).

Key Small Business Statistics 2018

Statistics Canada.

  • There were 1,079,000 self-employed women in Canada in 2018, accounting for 37% of all self-employed persons. Almost 60% (635,000) were unincorporated businesses with no employees. There were 1,781,600 self-employed men in 2018. A much smaller percentage of self-employed men (39%) were unincorporated and had no employees.

2018 Federal Budget Changes to Support Women's Enterprise Development 

In its commitment to support female entrepreneurs, the federal government is making approximately $1.5 billion in new financing available to women business owners over a period of three years. From the 2018 federal budget:

"To better support the growth of women-led businesses into competitive, sustainable world-class companies, the Government will make available $1.4 billion over three years, starting in 2018–19, in new financing for women entrepreneurs through the BDC. This commitment is in addition to an increase to $200 million (from $70 million) for investments in women-led technology firms over five years through the BDC’s Women in Technology Fund.

Women entrepreneurs also need access to financing that enables them to take advantage of opportunities in the global marketplace. To provide financing and insurance solutions for women-owned and women-led businesses that are exporting or looking to begin exporting, the Government will make available $250 million over three years, starting in 2018–19, through Export Development Canada (EDC). As well, EDC will support the international success of women entrepreneurs by providing expert advice, including though training sessions. EDC will also partner with women business associations, the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service and the BDC in order to ensure more women-led companies looking to export have quick access to available federal resources."

Are Women Shortchanging Themselves? 

Paul Lima. 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.