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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 to medium-sized, according to the Business Development Bank of Canada. A new to study examines gender and generational differences among Canadian entrepreneurs.

Sponsored by client relationship management firm Selling power and led by a 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-sized business (SME) owners conducted from September 13 to 23, 2018. Although a third of Canadian entrepreneurs are women, an equal number of female and male entrepreneurs were surveyed to compare gender differences more easily: 400 men and 401 women plus eight respondents who identified themselves as neither.


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

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



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