New Canadian research highlights unique challenges for women entrepreneurs

Ottawa, March 30, 2022 – All entrepreneurs face challenges in building their businesses, but according to a new study from The Conference Board of Canada, these challenges vary by gender. The study notes one of the key challenges women faced compared to men is raising funding from venture capital firms. Despite this barrier, research has shown that women-led start-ups generated 10 per cent more revenue after a five-year period compared to male-founded start-ups, highlighting a significant investment opportunity.

“While growing a business from an idea to a multi-million-dollar enterprise is difficult for anyone, our research revealed that women travelled tougher routes by taking more time to raise financing and faced some unique challenges when pitching to venture capitalists,” said Lauren Florko, Senior Research Associate, Human Capital, The Conference Board of Canada.

Key findings of the research include:

  • While women entrepreneurs noted limited proactive outreach from venture capital firms, many men were approached by venture capital firms who wanted to invest in their companies.
  • Women are more likely to self-fund their business compared to men who tend to rely on angel investors, friends and family.
  • When pitching to venture capitalists, women entrepreneurs emphasized their company’s sustainable growth while men entrepreneurs emphasized their company’s potential for rapid growth.
  • Women tended to have well established organizational values and prioritized their integration throughout their companies to ensure strong, inclusive cultures.

“This research shines a light on some of the unique challenges women face when they seek investor financing,” said Dr. Susan Black, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Conference Board of Canada. “Importantly, it offers the venture capital community insights that could enable them to reap greater financial returns while simultaneously providing better access to equity financing for women entrepreneurs in Canada.”

“Northleaf is proud to be a champion sponsor of this important research, as it provides critical insight into the Canadian technology entrepreneur landscape that can inform how venture capital firms seek out future investment opportunities,” said Lauren Harris, Managing Director at Northleaf Capital Partners.  “Understanding these gender differences is a positive step forward in helping future entrepreneurs and will benefit the venture capital ecosystem as a whole.

“This research is really important work. Although it highlights the progress we have made, there are still significant gaps and challenges that exist for women tech entrepreneurs in Canada,” said Michelle Scarborough, Managing Partner, Women in Technology Venture Fund at BDC Capital. “It is going to take intention and conscious effort by everyone collectively to break down the existing barriers faced by women-led start-ups for good, ultimately creating a culture that supports investing and supporting the long term success of all Canadian entrepreneurs.”

The research is available here. Media should contact with any questions or interview requests.

About The Conference Board of Canada:

The Conference Board of Canada is the country’s leading independent research organization. Our mission is to empower and inspire leaders to build a stronger future for all Canadians through our trusted research and unparalleled connections. Follow The Conference Board of Canada on Twitter @ConfBoardofCda.

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