A new report on women-owned businesses in Atlantic Canada shows women entrepreneurs are well-educated and successful, but that they tend to stick to low-growth, less lucrative sectors.
The study, called Women Business Owners in Atlantic Canada, was released Tuesday by Nova Scotia’s Centre for Women in Business. It aims to give a sweeping look at the state of women-led businesses in the region, comparing results from a 2019 survey of women business owners to a previous study done in 2012.
The big takeaway? Women are staying in low-earning sectors like professional services, health and education.
Beginning with stronger efforts to introduce girls to STEM and other male-dominated fields early in school, women need more encouragement and support to get into big money, big market sectors like science and technology, the report says.
“This shift should include existing [women business owners] because there are likely women who started their businesses out of necessity to provide an income but who have discovered that they are excellent at entrepreneurship and are ready for greater challenges and more confident to pursue market opportunities,” the report says.
But the numbers do show improvement. Though just 38.2 per cent of women reported launching their business to pursue a market opportunity rather than to provide a necessary income source, that number is up 10 per cent from 2012.
Studies show that starting a business aimed at the market rather than out of income necessity yields more profits, builds a bigger business and comes from higher ambitions, the report says.
There was also a 22 per cent bump in businesses earning between $100,000 and $500,000 from the same count in 2012, and nearly half of all the businesses polled in 2019 reported a jump in sales over last year.
“There’s a lot of positive change happening,” said Tanis Trainor, the centre’s communications coordinator.
Work-life balance the biggest challenge
Of the business leaders surveyed for the report, 64 per cent said they have an undergraduate or graduate degree. Thirty-seven per cent are under 45. Fourteen percent identified as belonging to one or more other under-represented groups like Indigenous people or people with disabilities.
Of the 50,400 self-employed women business owners in Atlantic Canada, 73 per cent were doing it on their own.
And of all the challenges in owning a business, the women surveyed for the report said finding a work-life balance was the toughest. Finding talented staff was a close second, followed by time management, finding funding and finding mentors.
Just 14 per cent of the women said their business is in the start-up stage, which is lower than in 2012. But 63 per cent said their enterprise was in a moderate- or fast-growth stage.
“This higher number in the fast and moderate growth stages could be an indicator of longer business survival of start-ups,” the report says.