Image with women to celebrate International Women's Day

International Women’s Day survey: Financial health falling behind men despite equal appetite for growth

International Women’s Day draws nationwide attention to reflect on the numerous and notable contributions of women in our society. With women-owned businesses now accounting for approximately 16% of Small Medium Enterprises and 37% of self-employed entrepreneurs, this moment offers an opportunity to celebrate how women contribute to our nation’s economy as entrepreneurs and highlight their struggles, often against inequities, in business ownership. 

In a new survey commissioned by Intuit QuickBooks, insights show that Canadian women-owned businesses still face significant financial challenges while equaling or outpacing their counterparts in their desire for business growth and employee retention. 

An equal appetite for growth

Women business owners are chasing entrepreneurial success and expansion at the same rate as their male counterparts. Over half of women (58%) and men (56%) indicate steady or fast growth is a primary goal for their businesses. Despite an equal appetite for growth, financial inequities pose a challenge in attaining the success women owners envision for their businesses. 

Financial health lagging behind non-women-owned businesses 

As survey results show above, women are equally hungry for success in business. Yet women-owned businesses are struggling with financial health and revenue—the biggest survival-critical aspects of business. A quarter of women-owned businesses (26%) report that the current financial health of their businesses is worse than it was a year ago. Among men, this number drops to 18%. With women feeling the strain of financial insecurity at higher rates, it follows that revenue is a key pain point. Two out of three women (68%) indicate that they are concerned about how much revenue their business is currently generating—this compared to 59% of men who share the same concern. Similarly, women-owned businesses are less likely to bring in higher end revenues than their counterparts. Only 21% of women report bringing in $500,000 or more in revenue in the previous year—compared to 47% of men. And while 42% of men expect a revenue increase in the next three months, among women, this drops to 29%. 

Cash flow conundrum 

Poorer financial health among women-owned businesses could be attributed to a number of reasons. As discussed above, revenue is a driving factor. Another possible contributor is cash flow management. One in four women-owned businesses (26%) report needing extra funding to cover current operating costs, suggesting cash flow challenges. Only 20% of men report the same. 

With cash flow as an obstacle, it’s no surprise that rising costs of inflation is a major concern for more than two out of three women-owned businesses (68%). For businesses already cash-strapped, the financial pressure of increasing prices for goods and services can pose a serious threat to their success. 

What business challenges are women facing?

Having a solid understanding of the financial bottom line is a crucial part of any business’s success. Only seven in ten (72%) women-owned businesses know how much revenue they need each month to be profitable. Among men, this jumps to 80%. While a significant majority of women-owned businesses are aware of their bottom line, this still leaves over a quarter (28%) not empowered with the knowledge they need to succeed. Along the same line, only 60% of women-owned businesses know which marketing strategies provide the best return on investment. Again, survey insights shine light on the areas of opportunities to best support women in entrepreneurship with resources and support. 

When it comes to expenses, women-owned businesses (58%) are more likely than their peers (49%) to report expenses being higher than expected over the last three months. Adding to this difficulty, a higher percentage of women (40%) than men (31%) indicate that they’re most concerned about low customer demand.

Feeling out of depth 

Juggling the various responsibilities of entrepreneurship can place a significant amount of pressure on business owners. For women, facing the added strain of lower rates of financial health and revenue could be a contributing factor to feeling out of depth at work at a higher rate than their peers. A third (32%) of women report feeling out of depth at least daily, weekly, or monthly at work while only 24% of men indicate the same.

Taking the lead with employee retention 

With many businesses still feeling the impact of the Great Resignation and ongoing hiring challenges, employee retention continues to be a priority in operations for a number of small businesses. The good news is that women-owned businesses (44%) are less likely than their peers (60%) to indicate that employee retention is getting harder—another signal that while these businesses may struggle with financials, with more support, they could achieve the success they dream of. 

Sample and methodology

Intuit QuickBooks International Women’s Day 2023

Online survey commissioned by Intuit QuickBooks in September 2022 of 600 Canadian business owners (206 women and 369 men). Respondents’ median business revenue from the previous year was $758,919 for women and $1,777,222 for men. Over one in three (37%) women respondents are sole proprietors. One in five (21%) men are sole proprietors. Over one in three (35%) women respondents have up to 20 employees. Over one in three (36%) men have up to 20 employees. Accounting (7%), agriculture and construction (6%), and health and personal care retailers (6%) are the top industries among women respondents. Computer systems (6%), business support services (5%), and accounting (4%) are the top industries among male respondents. A quarter (27%) of women respondents have been in business for up to five years. Less than one in five (16%) male respondents have been in business for up to five years. 


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