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Canadian women‑owned SME exporters

From 2011 to 2017, women‑owned small and medium‑sized enterprise (SME) exporters have gained traction as their share of all exporters doubled from 7.4 percent to 14.8 percent, although their share of all SMEs has remained relatively constant at around 15.6 percent of SMEs over the same period.

According to Statistics Canada’s Survey on Financing and Growth of SMEs, the percentage of SMEs1 that export increased by 1.4 percentage points from 2011 to 2014, but decreased by 0.1 percentage point in 2017. Nonetheless, women-owned SMEs experienced strong growth in their proportion of exporters from 2011 to 2017, outperforming their counterparts.

Indeed, while women‑owned SMEs lagged behind the average of all SMEs by 5.4 percentage points in 2011, the gap was consistently reduced over the years and now stands at 0.6 percentage points. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the number of women‑owned businesses is growing at an unprecedented rate compared to the historical figures, even outpacing that of men.2 For women‑owned SMEs, internationalization appears to be one of their strategies for success.

The Upshot

While women‑owned SMEs may experience a number of gender‑specific challenges3 to grow their businesses and reach foreign markets, the data suggests they are taking their place on the international stage. Visit the Canadian Trade Commission Service website to learn more about programs available to Business Women in International Trade (BWIT).

1 SMEs are Canadian businesses with one to 499 paid employees and at least $30,000 in annual revenues.

2 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, GEM Canada Report on Women’s Entrepreneurship 2016.

3 Orser et al., Exporting as a Means of Growth for Women‑owned Canadian SMEs, 2004.

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