Women entrepreneurs in Canada face challenges in accessing financing for their business

CFIB’s report highlights experiences of women in business and the barriers they face

Toronto, December 5, 2023 – Despite women business owners contributing about $150 billion to the Canadian economy, they continue to face barriers in their entrepreneurial journeys, according to a new report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). 

The report, entitled Empowering Women in Business: Insights and Recommendations, is sponsored by Scotiabank and comes on the fifth anniversary of The Scotiabank Women Initiative®, designed to help women-owned and -led businesses succeed.

“Women entrepreneurs play a vital role in our economy, providing local jobs, boosting the GDP and supporting our communities. But while there are universal challenges that all entrepreneurs face, there are also unique experiences that make it harder for women to succeed and grow their businesses,” said Laure-Anna Bomal, CFIB economist.

Half of women business owners (51%) surveyed reported facing challenges when trying to access financing for their businesses. In addition, 22% of financing applications from women-only owned businesses were rejected outright, compared to the average of 15% for all businesses.

When it came to government support programs, more women said they had difficulty finding (45%) or applying and qualifying (38%) for these programs compared to men (34% and 30%, respectively). 

Most of the federal government programs are also not used by women entrepreneurs. While a quarter (26%) of women business owners reported using the Canadian Digital Adoption Program, women-specific government programs, such as the Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund or the Inclusive Women Venture Capital Initiative, have low utilization, used by at most 3% of women entrepreneurs. 

“Financial institutions and governments should better promote their programs and make sure they’re easily accessible, particularly for those women entrepreneurs who lack financial support from family or business partners,” Bomal said.

To help women succeed in their entrepreneurial careers, CFIB recommends that:

  • Governments increase awareness of programs geared toward women entrepreneurs, simplify the application process and/or provide more support during the process.
  • Financial institutions consider establishing comprehensive mentorship programs, evaluating their loan approval processes, and consolidating and packaging resources to provide valuable support to women entrepreneurs.

Women in business looking for support to succeed can make full use of programs such as The Scotiabank Women Initiative*. The program offers its clients, who identify as women or non-binary, equitable access to financial solutions, specialized education, and women-centric advisory services and mentorship.

CFIB also offers plenty of resources for its members, including webinars, expert advice, and tools tailored to various aspects of business management, marketing, and growth strategies. For more information, visit cfib.ca.

*Participation in The Scotiabank Women Initiative or any program-related event does not constitute advice or an offer or commitment by Scotiabank to provide any financial products or services.

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, CFIB

About Scotiabank
Scotiabank is a leading bank in the Americas. Guided by our purpose: "for every future," we help our customers, their families and their communities achieve success through a broad range of advice, products and services, including personal and commercial banking, wealth management and private banking, corporate and investment banking, and capital markets. With a team of almost 90,000 employees and assets of approximately $1.4 trillion (as at October 31, 2023), Scotiabank trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: BNS) and New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: BNS). For more information, please visit http://www.scotiabank.com and follow us on Twitter @Scotiabank.

About The Scotiabank Women Initiative 
The Scotiabank Women Initiative® is an enterprise-wide program designed to increase economic and professional opportunities for our women clients, empowering them succeed on their own terms. It provides equitable access to financial solutions, specialized education, and inclusive, women-centric advisory services and mentorship to help people who identify as women or non-binary to pursue their best professional and financial futures. For more information, visit scotiabankwomeninitiative.com.

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 97,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at cfib.ca.