Women in Small Sized Business in BC

April 1, 2015
Denise Mullen

Small businesses[1] (i.e., those with 1 to 99 paid employees) make up ~98% of businesses in Canada and provide more than 50% of the private sector payroll. The figures are very similar for British Columbia.[2] It is not a large leap to discover that small businesses support a significant number of jobs and contribute a great deal to our GDP – about 26% in the case of BC.

Province/Territory Total







# of SME

/1000 population

>15 years

GDP per



British Columbia 171,557 169,178 2,218 161 45 $ 1,269
Canada Total 1,107,540 1,087,803 18,169 1,568 39 $ 1,591

Source: Industry Canada, Stats Canada, BC Stats

Female ownership of the ~1.08 million small businesses that exist in Canada is around 16% (~173,000), but they dominate the micro-business category of firms with 1 to 4 paid employees. When adding in self-employment (which is not included in the table above), women own and operate about 35% of small businesses in Canada. In British Columbia, the percentage is 38%,[3] the highest of all provinces.

Female-owned businesses are primarily oriented around three broad sectors: wholesale-retail, health care-arts-entertainment, and accommodation-food services. However, increasingly women are making headway as business owners in professional, scientific and technical services and some other categories. Much of the growth in female entrepreneurship to date has been in the services sector.[4] There is plenty of potential for women to expand their role as business owners within sectors where they already stand tall, but also to increase their presence in non-traditional areas -- especially given the large numbers of women graduating from post-secondary education programs in business, the professions, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Barriers to success for women business owners include: maintaining cash flow, recruiting and retaining the right employees, self‐confidence, financial literacy and access to capital. Like all businesses, female owned companies also face challenges that come with changing consumer demands, the rising costs of inputs and growing regulatory requirements -- all of which affect competitiveness.[5] On the other hand, women-owned small and mid-sized businesses seem to have higher profitability compared to those owned by men.[6] The reasons for this are not clear.

Encouraging, supporting and facilitating women as business entrepreneurs represents an important economic growth opportunity. In one study, the added GDP from a 10% increase in female ownership of business was estimated to be in the order of ~$200 billion over ten years[7]. It is vital that we create a positive climate for strong business development in British Columbia, especially for our women who have so much untapped potential.

[1] The term “business” refers to a registered business establishment that must meet the following criteria: it must have at least one paid employee (with payroll deductions remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)), it must have annual sales revenues of $30,000, and it must be incorporated and have filed a federal corporate income tax return at least once in the previous three years.

[6] ibid

Become A BCBC Member



Business Council of British Columbia
1050 West Pender Street, Suite 960
Vancouver BC V6E 3S7


Telephone: 604-684-3384
Media Contact: 604-684-3384
Email: info@bcbc.com

© 2023 Business Council of BC. All rights Reserved.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram