Women entrepreneurs facing tougher challenges due to COVID-19: report


A recent report found the pandemic has amplified many of the structural barriers many women entrepreneurs face.

The report, entitled The State of Women’s Entrepreneurship in Canada 2020, features government, academic, and expert research, and was put together by the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH).

“We risk turning back the clock on decades of progress if we do not take a hard look at the differences between women and men entrepreneurs and ensure that the programs and plans for recovery have a gender and diversity lens,” Wendy Cukier, Diversity Institute Founder and Academic Director of the WEKH, and the study’s lead author, said in a news release.

“Even the definitions of entrepreneurship can be a barrier to women and have impacted COVID-19 response support programs for women entrepreneurs," she continued.

According to the findings, women are majority owners of about 15.6 percent of small and medium businesses, roughly 114,000 companies in 2017, and they make up 37 percent of self-employed Canadians.

Additionally, women entrepreneurs are more likely to start businesses associated with services, social, health and beauty, and food sectors than in manufacturing and technology.

Further, women are less likely to seek and receive financing than men--32.6 per cent compared to 38 per cent--and firms owned by men are more likely to receive venture capital or angel funding and other forms of leverage such as trade credit or capital leasing.

Moreover, during the pandemic, while the percentage of women-owned businesses that laid off staff is about equal to the percentage of men-owned businesses overall, the percentage of women-owned businesses that have laid off 80 percent or more of their employees is substantially greater than that of businesses overall--62.1 per cent compared to 45.2 per cent.

“Women-led businesses are a key driver of economic activity in Ontario, but persistent barriers continue to limit their growth,” said Michelle Eaton, vice president of Public Affairs for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, said in the same release.

“On average, they tend to be newer and smaller and have less access to capital. Challenges for women entrepreneurs were amplified during the pandemic, as many found themselves ineligible for business supports, working in sectors most heavily impacted by public health restrictions, and bearing child care responsibilities that disproportionately affected women. If we are serious about economic recovery, we need to better evaluate and address the challenges faced by women and other underrepresented groups of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial diversity is not only essential for women’s recovery but for that of the entire economy," she continued.

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