Women Business Owners and the Impact of COVID-19

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the Canadian economy, but currently only about 16% of SMEs with one or more employees are majority women-owned. While more women than ever before are starting businesses, women-owned companies tend to be smaller, newer, and less well-financed than those owned by men (Cukier et al, 2020). Over 83% of women owned SMEs use personal sources of financing to start their businesses (ISED, 2018; Cukier et al, 2020) and more than half (58%) of Canada’s small business owners started out with less than $5,000. Women entrepreneurs are more likely to have businesses in service industries such as retail, accommodations, food service, and tourism—sectors that were particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Yet, in spite of the undeniable hardships faced by women entrepreneurs, including the crushing burden of unpaid work in shouldering the lion’s share of childcare and family support, many women entrepreneurs demonstrated their resilience during this challenging time. Many lost sales, laid off staff, or even went out of business, but others pivoted to online distribution channels, created new products and services, or expanded into new markets.

To celebrate business owners’ innovation and resilience during the pandemic and provide additional support, BMO Celebrating Women—a BMO-owned community program—has pledged $100,000 in grants to Canadian entrepreneurs. This new grant program will award ten women-owned businesses with $10,000 to put towards their business. The present report highlights the diverse characteristics of the people and businesses who applied for this grant. Since its inception in 2012, BMO Celebrating Women has honoured more than 180 women in communities across Canada and the United States. The new BMO Celebrating Women Grant Program is part of the bank’s commitment to drive the advancement of women and to “boldly grow the good in business and in life.” In addition to this new grant program, BMO has developed programs and invested in solutions to support women entrepreneurs, including pledging $3 billion in capital available to women-owned businesses across Canada over a three year period.

How to cite

Elmi, M., Hassannezhad, Z., Blanchette, S., Parameswaran, H., Jae, K., & Cukier, W. (2020). Women business owners and the impact of COVID-19: Pre-read document for roundtable event. Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, BMO. https://wekh.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Women_Business_Owners_and_the_Impact_of_COVID-19.pdf 

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