The dramatic impact of technology on Canada’s small businesses over the past few years makes it difficult to predict what the landscape will look like in the future, but recent data makes one thing absolutely clear: female entrepreneurs will be making their mark.
According to a new report from Salesforce commissioned in partnership with The Gandalf Group called The New Canadian Entrepreneurial Experience: Women and the Future of Small/Medium Business in Canada, 53% of female-led small businesses are less than 5 years-old. These are leaders with a long career ahead of them: 27% female entrepreneurs are younger than 35 and 59% are under the age of 45. They’re also highly educated, with 30% of those 45 and under having obtained a postgraduate degree and 20% of those older than 45 having accomplished the same thing.
Perhaps most significantly, Canadian women launching their own startups share some key characteristics that mark them for success. The Top 5 characteristics cited in the report include “dedication,” “effective planning,” “passion,” “discipline” and “ambition.” Those weren’t the only areas female entrepreneurs focus on, however.
“Interpersonal skills – strong people skills, strong leadership, sociability, and collaboration are more important to women than men,” the report says. “Despite being often considered more “masculine” entrepreneurial traits, strong financial management and being unafraid to take risks are relatively more important to women than to men.”
None of this is to suggest that female entrepreneurs don’t have some major hurdles to overcome, some of which affect them far more than their male counterparts in the startup sector.
A majority of women, for example, or 65%, said they struggle to achieve work-life balance. Less than half of men in the survey sample said the same thing.
Only 40% of men, meanwhile, said they have difficulties getting the capital investment they need from venture firms or other sources to build their small businesses, compared with 63% of women.
Also, 61% of women surveyed feel that their services are undervalued by customers -- just 41% of male entrepreneurs agreed.
That said, there are at least three major forces that could accelerate the ability of women leading small businesses in Canada to not only survive, but thrive.
Salesforce and The Gandalf Group are releasing the report just as Canada’s Ministry of Small Business and Export Promotion announced three new firms that qualified for BDC Capital’s Women In Technology (WIT) Venture Fund. The firms in question are at the forefront of areas such as artificial intelligence, intelligent sales coaching and finance process automation.
It’s worth noting that BDC increased the Women in Technology Venture Fund to $200 million, which positions it as a unique resource to address some of the challenges cited in the Salesforce report.
The No. 1 reason women surveyed in the report listed for launching a small business was “flexibility,” and recent advancements in cloud computing, mobile computing and artificial intelligence could all help them achieve that goal.
Thanks to cloud computing, for example, applications and infrastructure that once would have been out of reach for small businesses is more accessible than ever before. This is not only technology that brings benefits while female CEOs are in the office -- the same tools are now available in such a way that they can now run their entire business from the convenience of their smartphone.
Artificial intelligence technology takes this to a whole new level by anticipating potential business problems or identifying new opportunities earlier on, so that they can prioritize and plan more effectively. These benefits will far outweigh any initial perceptions about the cost, time for training and other factors that get in the way of small businesses integrating technology into their companies today.
Given that many female-led small businesses in Canada are still in their early years, there’s reason to hope that the increased adoption of these technologies over time will play a large role in helping them become more agile and drive greater satisfaction from their customers as they grow.
Beyond publishing the research, Salesforce is making sure that women in Canada’s small business community don’t find themselves feeling alone in their challenges through FemaleForce. This platform kicked off with a free event series at local WeWork spaces in Toronto and Vancouver, where women connected, exchanged ideas and built a support network that can prove invaluable as they build their businesses.
At the heart of FemaleForce is the recognition that success in the Canadian economy has to be defined with the full and equal participation of women in mind.
October is Canada’s national Small Business Month, which recognizes and celebrates entrepreneurs of every kind. This year, however, may be the moment to take a closer look at the portion of company leaders who will play a bigger role in shaping the next generation of Canadian startup success stories over the next ten years and beyond.
For more details, download a complimentary copy of the full report, The New Canadian Entrepreneurial Experience: Women and the Future of Small Business in Canada. Study the data and let’s keep this discussion going. That may be the surest way to maximize the potential of our country’s female entrepreneurs well into the future.