Nearly half of Québec women entrepreneurs are seeking funding to ensure their survival due to the impact of COVID-19

Montreal, QC, August 19, 2020: Today the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) and Femmessor joined together to host a webinar presenting two of their recent research reports; The State of Women’s Entrepreneurship in Canada 2020 from WEKH and a joint report by WEKH and Femmessor of survey findings in A Look at Québec Women Entrepreneurship During COVID-19. Both reports show that COVID-19 is amplifying pre-existing barriers for success and growth of women entrepreneurs.

The WEKH and Femmessor A Look at Québec Women Entrepreneurship During COVID-19 survey shows that nearly half (49.4%) of women entrepreneurs surveyed are actively looking for funding to ensure their survival or to adapt their business offerings to the current situation. The survey also shows that Québec women entrepreneurs have been severely impacted by the crisis—two out of three businesses reported operating at 50 percent capacity and more than one in five (22.3%) of women entrepreneur respondents believe that their business will have difficulty surviving this crisis and may not recover.

During the months of March and April, Québec women-owned businesses suffered financial losses of $83,902 on average, according to the survey. However, only 20 percent of these businesses said they intended to take advantage of the measures implemented by the Governments of Québec and Canada. A large proportion of survey respondents believed they did not qualify for the programs. Others did not yet know whether available programs addressed their specific needs and if they would be able to take advantage of these measures. Others still were looking to other sources of funding.

When asked about obstacles to funding, Québec women entrepreneurs cited two main factors:  difficulty making the case that they qualify, and challenges navigating different programs and organizations. Québec women entrepreneurs also indicated that they required support to go digital, adapt their business models, expand their networks, and develop their businesses in order to recover from this crisis.

Respondents identified five main expectations for economic recovery including ensuring that buying local continues to be a top priority; being supported in acquiring digital and financial skills; and lastly, a shift in the global economic model. This last point refers to the importance of environmental sustainability and promoting measures that enhance work–family balance, including working from home.

“Women-led businesses are a key driver of the economy, but systemic barriers will hold the economy and their business back if more supports which are tailored to their unique needs are not provided,” said The State of Women Entrepreneurship in Canada 2020 report lead author Wendy Cukier, Diversity Institute Founder and Academic Director of the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub. The State of Women Entrepreneurship in Canada 2020 study which synthesizes the results of many research studies to explore distinctive aspects of women entrepreneurship as well as the structural barriers that they face.  For example, the study highlighted the issues of how entrepreneurship is often conceived of – with a focus on technology – as well as the stereotypes of entrepreneurs. It also noted that while women are 15.6% of majority owners of Small Medium Enterprises, they are 38% of self employed Canadians. Women entrepreneurs face barriers in obtaining financing and often are unable to access programs targeting SMEs rather than self employed entrepreneurs.   Challenges for women entrepreneurs were amplified during the pandemic, as many found themselves ineligible for business supports, working in sectors most heavily impacted by public health restrictions, and bearing child care responsibilities that disproportionately affected women.  The study also shows that along with British Columbia, Quebec has the highest rate of entrepreneurial intent in Canada, with 16.7 percent of women intending to start a business. Additionally, the intention rate of immigrant women in Quebec is twice as high as that of Quebec-born women (30.9% vs. 14.9%).

The conclusions of the State of Entrepreneurship were amplified in another study supported by WEKH – Femmessor’s survey of 1,080 women entrepreneurs from 17 regions of Québec and from a range of sectors and business sizes during March and April 2020.

 “The results of Femmessor’s survey of women entrepreneurs in Quebec during COVID-19 demonstrate the extent of the repercussions of the ongoing crisis on women-owned businesses,” said Sévrine Labelle, CEO of Femmessor. “More than ever, we must continue our collective efforts to develop and support female entrepreneurship in the country in order to ensure our economic recovery and avoid losing the hard-earned gains acquired over the past 10 years.”

For some (18.3% of survey respondents), the current crisis has become an opportunity. “Despite the historic challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, they are showing great resilience to emerge from the crisis,” said Tania Saba, Québec region director of the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub and BMO Chair in Diversity and Governance at the Université de Montréal. “The results of both studies highlight the obstacles to their success, their development priorities and the actions to support them.”

The State of Women Entrepreneurship in Canada 2020 report and the Femmessor and WEKH Impact of COVID-19 Survey can be found at The sponsors of this project include the Government of Canada and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.


About WEKH: Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) is a national network and accessible digital platform for sharing research, resources, and leading strategies. Led by Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, in collaboration with Ryerson’s Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship and the Ted Rogers School of Management, WEKH has ten regional hubs across Canada and is leading a team of researchers, business support organizations, and key stakeholders to create a more inclusive and supportive environment to grow women’s entrepreneurship in Canada.

For more information, please contact:

Sabine Soumare, Director Marketing and Communications, Ryerson Diversity Institute, [email protected]