Archived — Key Small Business Statistics - July 2012

How many small business entrepreneurs are women?

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There is no easy way to precisely determine the number of entrepreneurs in Canada, much less the number of women entrepreneurs. However, it is possible to estimate the number using available data on self-employment and business ownership.

Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey reports there were 950,000 self-employed women in Canada in 2011, accounting for about one third of all self-employed persons. (Although not all of the self-employed would identify themselves as entrepreneurs, the number of self-employed women provides an upper limit for the number of female entrepreneurs.Footnote 10) Between 2001 and 2011, the number of self-employed women grew by 23 percent compared with 14-percent growth in male self-employment.

Another way to count entrepreneurs is through business ownership. Industry Canada's Credit Conditions Survey, 2010 distinguishes three types of business ownership based on gender: majority female ownership, equal partnership between male and female owners and majority male ownership.

Employer small businesses (those with 1 to 99 employees) with equal partnerships between male and female owners accounted for 9.3 percent, while 17.1 percent were majority-owned by females. The degree of female ownership varied by industry, but it is clear that the percentage of female-owned businesses lags behind the percentage of majority male-owned businesses in every industry (Figure 14).

Figure 14: Business Ownership Distribution by Gender and Industry, 2010

Figure 14: Business Ownership Distribution by Gender and Industry, 2010
Source: Industry Canada, Credit Conditions Survey, 2010.
Description of Figure 14
Figure 14: Business Ownership Distribution by Gender and Industry, 2010
Industry Majority Female Jointly Owned Majority Male
Industry Aggregate Total 17.1% 9.3% 73.6%
Agriculture/Primary 9.3% 15.6% 75.1%
Manufacturing 13.2% 8.1% 78.7%
Wholesale and Retail 21.0% 7.0% 72.1%
Professional Services 20.9% 9.2% 70.0%
Accommodations and food services 24.6% 10.9% 64.6%
Other 13.8% 9.8% 76.4%

Accommodation and food services industries have the highest share of businesses that are majority-owned by females, at 25 percent, whereas small businesses in agriculture and primary industries have the lowest level, with only 9 percent of businesses majority-owned by females. Professional services and wholesale and retail each accounted for 21 percent of businesses that were majority-owned by females, while the manufacturing sector accounted for 13 percent.

Table 13 shows the degree of female business ownership by region. In 2010, majority female-owned small businesses accounted for 19 percent of all small businesses in Quebec and 18 percent of all small businesses in Atlantic Canada. Majority female-owned small businesses in Ontario accounted for 17 percent, while those in the Prairies and British Columbia each accounted for 15 percent of all small businesses in those regions. While British Columbia was among the regions with the lowest percentage of majority female-owned firms, the region had the highest percentage of firms that were half-owned by women (13 percent).

Table 13: Business Ownership Distribution by Gender and Region, 2010
Region Degree of Female Ownership (Percent)
<50% 50% >50%
Source: Industry Canada, Credit Conditions Survey, 2010.
Note 1: Dash indicates estimates suppressed due to confidentiality.

Atlantic Provinces 75 8 18
Quebec 74 7 19
Ontario 75 8 17
Prairies 73 12 15
British Columbia 72 13 15
Territories Note 1 referrer of Table 13
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