A glance at female-owned SMEs and their share of exporters by industry

Majority-female-owned1 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) represent a small share of Canadian SME exporters, but they account for a sizeable portion of exporters in particular industries.

In 2014, female SMEs accounted for just 11.1 percent of all exporting SMEs while majority-male owned SMEs accounted for 70.4 percent of all exporting SMEs, and SMEs owned equally by males and females represented 18.4 percent of all exporting SMEs. Despite only accounting for 11.1 percent of exporting SMEs, female SMEs represented 22.3 percent of exporters in retail trade, 17.2 percent in other services2 and 15.9 percent the health, information and arts sector.

Female SMEs’ Share of Exporters by Industry (2014)

Female SMEs accounted for just 11.1 percent of all exporting SMEs while majority-male owned SMEs accounted for 70.4 percent of all exporting SMEs.

Data: Statistics Canada, Survey on Financing and Growth of SMEs 2014
Source: Office of the Chief Economist, Global Affairs Canada

The flipside of this, however, is that female SMEs represented a smaller share of exporters in key exporting industries, such as manufacturing and wholesale trade. In 2014, manufacturing SMEs had the highest propensity to export (38.3 percent) compared to SMEs in all other industries. Wholesale trade SMEs had the second-highest propensity to export (26.9 percent). Yet, female SMEs only accounted for 8.5 percent and 6.5 percent of manufacturing and wholesale trade exporters, respectively. Meanwhile, the industries in which female SMEs captured a larger than average share of exporters tended to be less export-intensive. For example, only 5.8 percent of all retail trade SMEs exported in 2014. The industry-mix of female SMEs is one of the main reasons that they accounted for only 11.1 percent of exporting SMEs in 2014, while they represented 15.7 percent of all SMEs in Canada (both exporting and non-exporting). 

The Upshot

Female SMEs represented a small share of exporting SMEs in 2014, but they punched above their weight in retail trade, other services, and the health, information, and arts sector.

However, female SMEs were underrepresented in other key export sectors, like manufacturing, in particular.

Learn more about the Global Affairs Canada’s Office of the Chief Economist.

1 Majority-female owned is defined as 51+ percent of the owners self-identifying as female.

2 Other services include repair and maintenance services, personal and laundry services, religious, civil, professional and similar organizational services, and private household services. It excludes public administration.

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