In 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that 35% of franchise outlets in the U.S. were owned by women and continuing to grow. This number was growing in Canada as well. Currently, women business owners only account for 16% of small and medium-sized enterprises. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic stagnated this growth.
In addition, a recent statistic from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) that struck me was women’s participation in the labour force is the lowest it has been in 30 years. When COVID-19 hit, women lost twice as many jobs as men. COVID-19 hindered opportunities for women as employees as well as in business, including entrepreneurship.
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Women in the Franchising World
As a professional in the Canadian franchising industry for more than 20 years, I know first-hand the barriers women can face in business. As a woman in a historically male-dominated industry, it wasn’t unusual for me to be the only woman in the room. Throughout my career, I’ve helped people become a small business owner through franchising and also helped those franchisees grow their businesses. I found myself wondering why there weren’t more women making inroads in the franchising world.
Part of the reason I moved into the non-profit sector with the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA) was to make a difference through education and advocacy. We believe in providing opportunities for potential business owners to build a successful business using the franchise model, regardless of gender.
The Challenges She Faces
Whether they own independent businesses or local franchises, women business owners face the same dilemmas. Women lack the financial reserves and technological or financial expertise to adapt their business.
- Women lack the financial reserves and technological or financial expertise to adapt their business.
- Women are underrepresented in all sectors and especially in the fast-growing sectors (i.e. tech and innovation).
- Women are usually the primary care givers in the family.
The federal government has made a commitment to increase the number of women-owned businesses through a $2 billion program. To amplify the collective efforts to support women entrepreneurship, the CFA can introduce new and existing franchise owners to a credible franchise system and access to educational resources that help their business succeed. This includes writing your own business plan to networking events with other women in franchising and everything in between. We help equip franchisees with the tools to grow their own business, while mitigating the stress that comes with business ownership.
Supporting Women in Business
Research shows that supporting women business owners can add up to $150 billion to Canada’s GDP by 2026. Even amidst adversity, women have proven time and time again that they have the potential to grow and scale businesses. We need to acknowledge that women occupy a unique position in the barriers they face, and need to be given their own set of tools to even the playing field for entrepreneurship opportunities so that more of us can succeed. Flexibility and accessibility are integral to the development of women entrepreneurship, and public organizations have a significant role to play in moving women forward.
Franchising is a great path for women to get into business ownership. When you buy a franchise, you receive the right to use a franchisor’s trademarks, their method of operations, training and ongoing support from the franchise brand’s head office, and you become part of a community of other franchisees in the network. All of these benefits help to improve a business owner’s chances for success. In short, franchising is about harnessing the power of community, working together, and Growing Together™.
In fact, women typically make excellent franchisees because they generally possess strong communication skills, are good networkers, and take a collaborative approach to work. These traits allow female franchisees to engage their target markets and grow their businesses while being part of a franchise network, working as part of a team, and being in business for themselves but not by themselves.
Franchising lends itself well to set women up for success in business ownership. It’s time, Canada, to ramp up our economy, break barriers, and drive the She-Covery with women entrepreneurs through franchising.
Words by: Sherry McNeil
Sherry McNeil is the president and CEO of the Canadian Franchise Association (CFA), a national not-for-profit representing the Canadian franchise community. With over 20 years of leadership experience in franchising, Sherry is a veteran of industry and has helped a wide range of franchise brands in a variety of categories and stages of development grow and thrive. Sherry is an expert in franchise development, sales, real estate, project management, concept evolution, and rebranding. Learn more about the CFA at www.cfa.ca.