Indicators and targets: Supporting a diverse set of entrepreneurs

 Jobs and innovation: Tracking progress and results


  • Double the number of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) majority owned by women to 340,000 by 2025

Entrepreneurship is an important driver of innovation, job creation and productivity growth. All Canadians have the potential to become entrepreneurs, but women, Indigenous people and others are currently underrepresented in starting and growing businesses. There is consensus that women and Indigenous entrepreneurs face unique challenges as they move through the phases of business development, constraining their potential contributions to the economy and society more broadly. Extending access to entrepreneurship opportunities to all Canadians will generate social and economic benefits for Canada.

In 2017, 170,000 SMEs were majority owned by women, representing 15.6% of all SMEs (see Figure 11.1). Just over 12% of SMEs were majority owned by visible minorities, while 1.4% were majority owned by Aboriginal persons and 0.5% by persons with disabilities – all percentages showing underrepresentation.

Figure 11.1: Number and percentage of SMEs majority owned by women

Women are also underrepresented on corporate boards, accounting for 19.4% of board directors in 2016 (Statistics Canada, 2019). Overall, 28% of corporations had one woman on their board of directors, 15.2% had more than one woman and 56.8% had none.  In 2018, the Government passes amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act to require publicly traded, federally incorporated companies to disclose annually information on the diversity makeup of their boards and senior management, as well as their diversity policies.

The new comprehensive Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) addresses the challenges facing women entrepreneurs. The Strategy includes $2 billion for programs and initiatives delivered by a number of departments and agencies across the Government, focusing on four areas: helping women-led businesses grow, increasing access to capital, improving access to federal business innovation programming, and enhancing data and knowledge. Among other commitments, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has committed to a new lending target of $1.4 billion for women-owned businesses over three years and has increased the size of its Women in Technology Venture Fund to $200 million.

Indigenous entrepreneurs often have limited access to capital due to legislative and market-based barriers, such as remoteness, financial illiteracy, low accumulated wealth, and a lack of credit history. To help address these barriers, the government offers a series of supports to Indigenous entrepreneurs. The BDC's Indigenous Banking Unit provides financing and consulting services, including the Aboriginal Business Development Funds, in partnership with community organizations, to increase access to capital for Indigenous entrepreneurs who may not normally qualify for a loan; and Indigenous Entrepreneur Loans of up to $250,000 for both businesses and start-ups. Budget 2019 introduced the Indigenous Growth Fund to further encourage investments in Indigenous-owned businesses.

Young entrepreneurs often have great business ideas but lack the financing, mentoring and tools needed to a build a sustainable business. Futurpreneur Canada, a national not-for-profit organization, provides aspiring young entrepreneurs with mentorships, learning resources, and start-up financing. It has helped launch over 10,000 Canadian businesses, 42% of which are majority owned by women.