Is female entrepreneurship on the wane in New Brunswick?
Some interesting and conflicting data when it comes to self-employment differences between males and females in New Brunswick.
Entrevestor, NBIF, Propel, etc. have good data on the breakdown of male/female founders of tech companies and that data is showing some positive trends.
I’m equally interested in female entrepreneurship at a wider level. We know from the data that even entrepreneurship historically tends to have a gender bias - there are far more male-owned companies in engineering, construction, transportation, etc. and more female-owned companies in personal services - pet grooming, hairstyling, etc.
The new Census data on this will not be out for a while but there are a few interesting data points to chew on.
The first statistic is the number of people declaring self-employment income on their taxes. As you can see in the chart, the number of males with self-employment income is going down year-over-year. In the last 20 years there has been a 6,500 person drop in this category - an 11% decline just since 2009. For females, by contrast, there has been a 17% increase since 2009 and a 28% increase since 2000. In fact, in places like Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, the number of men and women declaring self-employment income has essentially converged.
You will say this is great for female entrepreneurship and it is interesting but I’m not so sure. The average net self-employment income declared by women is still only around $11,500 while it is $18,700 for men. So it looks like a lot of women (and men for that matter) are reporting relatively small amounts of self-employment income.
All the accountants out there hold your nose because I am not going to get into a discourse on the difference between self-employment, employment, dividend and other sources of ‘income’ that a self-employed person may declare (or not declare). All we are talking about here is one proxy for self-employment - net self-employment income.
In general we can agree that thousands of more women with self-employment income is a good thing. This data is for 2019 but I will be interested in the more current data as it seems to me there has been an explosion of micro-entrepreneurs since the pandemic (and my daughters and wife have found most of them). These are usually craftsperson-type folks that produce small batches of candles, confections, jams, even booze along with durable goods.
For the most part I love the micro-entrepreneur movement - farmers’ markets, pop-up stores, etc. as I think it enriches a community and allows the person to make a few bucks doing something they love.
But here I am trying to get to serious entrepreneurs looking to build a business with employees, markets, capital investment, growth potential.
And the data on this is less encouraging. When you look at Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey and the number of persons who are self-employed and have paid staff, the number of females is on the decline dropping by a thousand or so in the past few years. Now it is the LFS and there is margin for error but the fact there are 3.4 times more men than women who are self-employed and have paid staff seems should be concerning. Again, when the Census data comes out we will get more clarity.
I’m not sure what all this means but in general based on what we have seen with female-led companies in New Brunswick, I think this should be concerning. Not all women have entrepreneurial chops and neither do all men. But do we have the right policy and support environment for the women that have the inclination to own their own business? Are they exposed to mentors?
The old trope that women are not hard-wired to be risk takers and therefore naturally not inclined to business ownership needs to be revisited. I think the issue of children and family does seem to be more of a challenge for women than men but even that seems to be somewhat of a social construct that can be surmounted.
Anyway, the old white guy musing about the why or why not about women likely means I have strayed way outside the lines on this but you have the data, do with it what you will.