Canadians are most active women entrepreneurs in the world

Women in Canada more likely to open their own businesses than in any other nation, according to global report.

Canadian women are starting businesses at a higher rate than their counterparts in all other G20 countries, according to a new global report published today.

"Canada has seen a surge of entrepreneurship in our economy over the last 20 years, and women have been at the forefront, launching businesses at rates that often outpace men," said Karen Hughes, a professor at the University of Alberta's Alberta School of Business and Department of Sociology, and author of the 2015/16 biennial Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Canada Report on Women's Entrepreneurship.

"Now they've moved to first place from third, internationally, in terms of starting up and running businesses that are younger than 3.5 years. That's 13.3 per cent of women in Canada compared with 10 per cent in 2014."

Hughes said that the increase, though not a dramatic jump, aligns with the high participation of women in the labour force. "It's clear that women in Canada have a lot of interest in entrepreneurship, and this was shown in the attitudes measured in the report, as well."

This is the second biennial GEM Canada Report on Women's Entrepreneurship, which complements the annual GEM Report, the largest and longest-running study of entrepreneurs in the world, explained Hughes.

"Over the years since GEM launched in 1999, more than 100 countries have participated. The approach digs deeper than official government surveys by asking questions about attitudes and activities, and its uniform structure allows for comparison across countries."

She added that gaining insight into women entrepreneurship is important for fully understanding women's economic and leadership contributions, especially considering some of the barriers they face in traditional employment.

"Entrepreneurship is another avenue for women who have talent and ability and who want to take care of their own security and families."

Why women are driven to go solo

When asked what motivated women to be entrepreneurs-defined as any attempt at a new business or business venture, which could include being self-employed or expansion of an existing business-opportunity was cited the most (85 per cent versus 70 per cent in 2014).

"Only 15 per cent said their business was started out of necessity. So it's not driven primarily by poor economic conditions, though this is an issue for some women. But most women are recognizing and identifying opportunities," Hughes pointed out.

Women are more confident than ever, too, according to the GEM Canada study.

"Four out of five women said they felt well prepared and capable of running a business," she said.

There is also no gender gap in fearing failure in this year's report, whereas in 2014, men reported greater confidence than women.

How women are contributing to the economy

Women's firms are also creating more jobs than in 2014, noted Hughes. "The majority of female entrepreneurs are employers (both in early-stage and established businesses), but there's still a big group who are going it solo."

The data also indicate that although job growth is expected in the future for established female (and male) entrepreneurs, early-stage female owners expect less job growth than men-a trend that is true for Canadian female entrepreneurs as well as those in other countries. "Those modest expectations for job growth do need to be considered," she said.

There is debate over how much Canada's startup culture contributes to the economy, added Hughes.

"My view is that women entrepreneurs have a lot of diversity, and they need to be supported and mentored to grow. Some women are seeking very high growth, some are running productive businesses contributing to local economies, and others are balancing work and family. These are all different ways of contributing to the economy and important parts of the picture," she said.

The report also showed strong interest in internationalization and innovation, as well as growing participation in export activity for female entrepreneurs.

"One-third of women reported that 25 per cent or more of their customers are outside the country," said Hughes.

The full report is available online at