Women currently comprise 28% of all entrepreneurs in Canada but represent only a small percentage of high-growth firm founders.
With that in mind, the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E), in partnership with Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH), set out to better understand women’s experiences and the barriers they face as they make the leap from start-up to scale-up.
In Growing their own way: High-growth women entrepreneurs in Canada, a new in-depth qualitative study, researchers interviewed 24 women entrepreneurs across Canada, representing a range of ages and sectors.
“We learned that these high-growth founders are no less successful than their male counterparts,” writes co-author Kim de Laat, “But their pathways to growth often look very different.”
Among the key findings:
- The “growth at all costs” mindset is not for everyone: Many participants choose to ensure their growth process is manageable and realistic for their own well-being and that of others.
- Systemic barriers persist: For those identifying as racialized persons, these barriers are compounded.
- Available funding options are not meeting founders’ needs: Founders face difficulties accessing financing that accommodates their distinct needs, from venture capital firms and banks.
- Family matters: Some base decisions about how and when to grow their companies around family planning and they are no less successful or ambitious than others.
- Bravado is not the same as confidence: Many of the women interviewed perceive a gap between how they convey their confidence (for example, through measured deliberation), and a perception that entrepreneurs are brash and arrogant.
“This research reinforces the fact that women entrepreneurs have different aspirations, experiences and needs,” says Wendy Cukier, founder of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute and the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub.
“Now more than ever, we need to ensure that we recognize the importance of women entrepreneurs, in general, and those leading high-growth companies, in particular, in economic recovery.”
The full report can be downloaded at brookfieldinstitute.ca.
The Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) is a nonpartisan policy institute, housed within Ryerson University, that is dedicated to building a prosperous Canada where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
The Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH): With 10 regional hubs and a network of more than 250 organizations, WEKH is a national network designed to address the needs of diverse women entrepreneurs across regions and across sectors.