It seems the proverbial glass ceiling that has kept women under-represented in boardrooms has translated to more female-run small-to-medium-sized businesses in Canada. A new report by RBC called Canadian Women Grabbing the Baton reveals women are gaining as business owners.
RBC reports female-owned small-medium-sized enterprises (SME) contributed an estimated $148 billion in economic activity in 2011. Its goes on to say that a small 10 per cent bump in activity would boost the economic contribution to $198 billion. But with men still at the helm of almost 85 per cent SMEs, RBC says women entrepreneurs could be the key to boosting Canada’s economic activity.
Small Business Driving Our Economy
“SMEs are a significant source of productivity gains and a major driver of Canada’s economy,” says Laura Cooper, an economist at RBC. If women continue to make similar gains as the head of SMEs this would translate to a four per cent boost to the economy by 2032.
“Female entrepreneurs have been steadily contributing more and more to this level of growth; however, there remains a tremendous untapped opportunity for female majority-owned SMEs to have an even deeper impact in terms of contributing to economic growth,” adds Cooper.
Retired Women Are Finding New Careers
The number of SMEs headed up by women 65 or older has doubled in the last four years. This may be an indication that women in retirement continue to need income in their golden years and finding new full time work is not possible. It’s also a reflection, in my opinion, that most women by age 65 are not ready to stop working. With women waiting longer to start a family, some women may be putting their career aspirations on hold, even waiting until their golden years to realize their dreams. This is resulting in better qualified women heading up their own business. In contrast women under 40 have the smallest share of female lead SMEs in Canada.
Barriers Faced By Women
Women business owners say a number of problems are sidetracking their ultimate success. According to RBC, female business owners say maintaining sufficient cash flow and recruiting and retaining staff are two of their more serious concerns. They also note instability of consumer demand as big challenge. With economic conditions improving there is a renewed optimism these issues can be resolved.
Work Place “Balance”
The report gives the impression women are in the same race as men when it comes to heading up SME. But the reality is women still disproportionately share the responsibility of childcare and household duties. With most small business owners admitting it takes a great amount of time to get an enterprise off the ground, many women may find running their own business may not provide the work life balance they need to continue to give them the same time to their children.
How Women Can Gain
In order for women to play a more significant role in contributing economy activity, there needs to be more resources and better access for would-be entrepreneurial women. Government-run programs could be a key to helping women get their foot in the door – so to speak – on their own career. Women also need positive role models to help guide our younger generation to have a more entrepreneurial spirit. As a female who is self employed I know the barriers are real, but the growth in women-run business is also very much a reality as well.