Entrepreneurship has long been seen as a catalyst of economic growth and national prosperity. But in Canada, new business ventures are still much more likely to be led by men than by women.

In 2018, less than 20 per cent of Canadian small-to-medium enterprises were wholly or majority owned by women. That is, women represent a large pool of potential entrepreneurial talent that is largely going untapped. Indeed, economists estimate that increasing the number of women-led SMEs by only 10 per cent would add approximately $150 billion to Canada’s GDP.

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In speaking with entrepreneurs who recently closed Series A financing, we’re exploring the differences and similarities in the management and fundraising approaches of men and women Canadian technology entrepreneurs.

Though some entrepreneurial experiences are common to both genders, many of their experiences differ, including methods of financing/funding; instances of sexism; interactions with venture capital firms; and number of pitches made before securing financing.

Understanding why differences in participation persist in this area is critical to devising better policies and educating financial professionals on the approaches taken by men and women, so that women’s access to capital is not skewed by misperceptions or bias. To do that, one of the main focuses of our research is the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs.

Key Takeaways to Help Close the Gender Divide

1

How Funders Can Help

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2

Advice for Inspiring Entrepeneurs

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Key Findings

Women run businesses in technology have longer routes from start-up to scale-up. For example, compared with the men in our study, women reported doing more funding pitches than men and taking longer to raise their Series A financing.

When pitching their business to venture capitalists, women emphasized their business’ financial sustainability, while men emphasized their business’ growth potential.

While growing a business from an idea to a multi-million-dollar enterprise is an arduous challenge for both women and men, Canadian women entrepreneurs identified a number of unique challenges and explicitly articulated the need for entrepreneurs to demonstrate grit and resilience.

Female entrepreneurs’ leadership style is highly people-focused with a strong emphasis on integrating organizational values into the fabric of their organizations and creating inclusive environments.

While growing a business from an idea to a multi-million-dollar enterprise is difficult for anyone, after speaking with men and women for our new research we found that women faced unique challenges.

Lauren Florko

Lauren Florko

Senior Research Associate

Recent Releases

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Parallel Paths, Unique Challenges

Entrepreneurship has long been seen as one of the main wellsprings of economic growth and national prosperity. Yet new business ventures today are still much more likely to be led by men than by women. Understanding why differences in participation persist in this area is critical to devising better policies. A stronger understanding is also an important means of educating financial professionals on the approaches taken by men and women so that access to capital is not skewed by misperceptions or bias.

Impact paper  |  27-min read
March 30, 2022

Spokesperson: Lauren Florko

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How Funders Can Help Close the Gender Divide While Growing Their Bottom Line

Our research found that women entrepreneurs face greater challenges when moving their business from start-up to scale up. Venture capital firms can take a number of steps to position their organizations as attractive partners for women entrepreneurs and potentially enhance their ability to generate better returns.

Online experience  |  8-min read
March 30, 2022

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Advice From Current Entrepreneurs to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

We met with 30 founders of scale-up business ventures and asked them for their advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Some tips include recognizing that it’s not easy, but it’s getting better; build networks with people you can trust; be comfortable having a strong point of view while remaining open to failure and learning from it; and don’t shy away from focusing on being an people-centric leader focusing on building sustainable, inclusive, and a values-driven culture.

Online experience  |  8-min read
March 30, 2022

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Research Release

Start-Up Success: The Gender Difference

Building ideas from scratch into multi-million dollar enterprises is a momentous feat for anyone to achieve. And while men and women have similar initial business aspirations, they also appear to have different approaches, experiences, and challenges throughout their entrepreneurial journeys. The Conference Board of Canada explored these gender differences through research conducted with men and women who are leading tech start-ups.

March 30, 2022  |  Virtual

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Funders

Northleaf Capital Partners
Business Development Canada
Georgian Partners
Lumira Ventures
RBC
StandUp Ventures
Golden Ventures
Inovia Capital
Teralys Capital
EDC
Relay Ventures

For a deeper conversation on research about women-led ventures, please contact Lauren Florko.

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