Women Entrepreneurship in Canada

According to the GEM Canada Report on Women’s Entrepreneurship, the number of Canadian women who are creating start-ups is higher than that in any G20 country.

Statistics and Trends

In countries such as Jordan, Algeria, Macedonia, and Russia, the rates of women’s business activities are low. Only 1 in 20 women is engaged in some type of enterprise. In comparison, more than 13 percent of Canadian women were engaged in some form of early-phase entrepreneurial activity in 2016. Some 6.6 percent of Canadian women owned and ran an established business during the same period. A quick look at figures, however, shows that there is still a significant gender gap. Compared to women (13 percent), a little more than 20 percent of men are engaged in early-stage activities. On the positive side, female entrepreneurial activity increased from 10 to 13 percent in 2015 while there was no increase in men’s rates, which helped narrow the gender gap to some extent. Canadian women are also involved at higher rates than women in countries such as the U.S., Australia, Portugal, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Ireland, which have rates of 6.1 to 11.5 percent. Canada also has one of the highest female labor force participation rates (65.7 percent), and countries such as Australia (64.8 percent), the U.S. (62.8 percent), and Sweden (72.1) have comparable or slightly higher rates.

When it comes to age groups, 27.1 percent of women in the 25 – 34 age group are involved in some early-stage activity as well as 22.6 percent of women in the 35 – 44 age group and 19.7 percent in the 45 – 54 age group. The percentages are higher for men in all age groups. Speaking of women with established businesses, reports show similar results except for the 54 – 65 age group in which women outnumber men.

Funds That Offer Assistance to Women

The Women Entrepreneurship Fund was created under the government’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy to provide funding of up to $100,000, which is in the form of non-repayable contributions. Financial assistance is available to women who pursue growth and expansion, including improved technologies and processes, equipment and plant upgrades, value stream mapping, development of services and products - see creditavenue.ca. Funding is also offered to women who are looking for new markets outside of Canada. Eligible business activities include website development, business advisory services, promotional activities, supply chain integration, - see creditavenue.ca. The Ecosystem Fund under the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy also offers assistance in the form of funding, mentorship, and networking. Efforts are directed toward a number of focus areas, including accelerators and incubators, matchmaking and networking opportunities, and support for female entrepreneurs in sectors that are male-dominated. A total of $15 million is available to fund national projects that are implemented on the territory of 3 or more regions - see creditavenue.ca. These include Northern Canada, Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Southern Ontario, Northern Ontario, and Western Canada.

There are other funds and programs that offer financial assistance and advisory services, including Innovation Canada, the Industrial Research Assistance Program, the Business Development Bank of Canada, etc. The Women in Technology Fund of the Business Development Bank, for example, invests in tech companies that are owned and managed by female entrepreneurs. The fund invests across different sectors, including medical, information technology, information and communication technology, healthcare, - see BDC.

Canadian Women in Technology

While the number of female university graduates is higher than their male counterpart, women are still underrepresented in fields such as computer science, mathematics, engineering, technology, and science. The majority of women that opt for a science degree enroll in science and biology programs. This is unfortunate in light of the fact that a degree in computer science or engineering offers better employment prospects and salary earnings.

Choice of Degree

In Canada, women are less likely to opt for a program in technology, engineering, or computer science. In fact, female high school students with high marks are less likely to choose a technology or related program compared to male high school students with low marks. Just 10 percent of female students with marks under 80 percent enroll in a technology, computer science or related program compared to over 30 percent of male students. One of the reasons is that female students have a worse perception of their mathematical skills than males. Only 37 percent of females report very good or excellent skills compared to 50 percent of males. Given that young women have a lower opinion of their abilities, it is not surprising that they are underrepresented in technology, engineering, and related programs. Social expectations of gender roles and gender-appropriate jobs also explain why young women are less willing to enroll in a computer science or technology program. Data from the National Household Survey also reveals that women make only 30 percent of graduates in computer science and mathematics programs and 23 percent of graduates in engineering programs. What is more, they only make for 39 percent of graduates in computer science, technology, and related programs.

Remuneration and Unemployment Rates

There is also a marked difference between the remuneration of women and men across different sectors. The median salary of women with a science degree is $49,100 and the median salary of men – $55,300. Likewise, women with a degree in computer science or mathematics are paid $54,900 on average while men are paid $60,800. The median salary of women with an engineering degree is $61,100, and the median salary of men is $66,300. The unemployment rate among women with science and technology degrees is also higher than that of men. Some 6.6 percent of women with a science degree are unemployed compared to 5.8 percent of men. The unemployment rate for female engineering graduates is 7.1 percent compared to 4.3 percent for men. The trend is similar when it comes to computer science and mathematics graduates – 8.5 percent of women and 4.2 percent of men are unemployed. The only exception is technology – the unemployment rate is 2.4 percent for women and 6.7 percent for men.

Women Entrepreneurs

While the number of women who are involved in entrepreneurial activity is growing in Canada, they are less likely to start a science, technology or related business. In fact, just 13 percent of all businesses that are run by women are technology oriented. Women also face problems such as balancing home and work life and accessing funding to start a business. The gender gap is less prominent in other sectors of the economy such as professional services, education, and healthcare.

Female Entrepreneurs That Run Successful Businesses

The good news is that there are women who have ventured into the world of technology and run a successful business. Names such as Nadia Hamilton, Maayan Ziv, and Melissa Sariffodeen are worth mentioning. Nadia Hamilton is an app designer and the founder of Magnusmode, a company that specializes in apps which target the autistic community. Maayan Ziv is a female entrepreneur and activist and the founder of AccessNow, an app that helps persons with disabilities to locate places that are accessible. Melissa Sariffodeen is an entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of the Ladies Learning Code which helps Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, immigrants and women master digital skills.