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How the challenges, skills and motivations of Canadian small-business owners differ by gender

More than 98 percent of Canadian businesses are small or medium-sized, according to the Business Development Bank of Canada. A new study looks at gender and generational differences among of Canadian entrepreneurs.

Sponsored by customer relationship management firm Salesforce and conducted by Toronto-based consulting firm Gandalf Group,The New Canadian Entrepreneurial Experience: Women and the Future of Small Business in Canada is based on 809 interviews with small and medium business (SMB) owners conducted September 13–23, 2018. Although a third of Canadian entrepreneurs are women, an equal number of female and male entrepreneurs were surveyed to more easily compare gendered differences: 400 men and 401 women plus eight respondents who identified as neither. 

Key highlights

  • More than half (53 percent) of female-led businesses have been operating for five years or less, compared to 34 percent of male-led businesses
  • The percentage of women entrepreneurs under 45 was higher for women (59 percent)than men (42 percent); 27 percent of female entrepreneurs are younger than 35, compared to 19 percent of men
  • Entrepreneurs younger than 45 were more motivated than older respondents to start businesses because of financial uncertainty and disaffection with previous employment
  • 75 percent of women own a business in the services sector, but men are twice as likely as women to own a business in the STEM sector 
  • Women business owners in the STEM sector experience significantly greater challenges than their male counterparts: 65 percent of women surveyed struggle to achieve work-life balance (compared to 48 percent of men) and 63 percent of women surveyed reported obstacles accessing capital (compared to 40 percent of male entrepreneurs)
  • Women tend to be more motivated by work-life balance (79 percent) and men by financial considerations (78 percent). While 70 percent of women cited work-life balance as the top reason for starting their business, 59 percent say it is also one of the biggest challenges they face as entrepreneurs

The report is part of a larger Salesforce small business initiative called FemaleForce, a platform to celebrate and support Canadian female small business, including a free panel event moderated by Global News anchor Coleen Christie at WeWork in Vancouver on October 18.