ver the past 80 years, women’s economic empowerment has been one of the largest forces shaping Canada’s economy. As always, progress on this front has been non-linear. The pace of change occurs more rapidly in some domains than it does elsewhere. Entrepreneurship is one such area where significant gaps continue to exist, and while many have studied how gender ownership and gender-based experiences affect start-ups or business more generally, comparatively few examine the role gender plays in the process by which firms grow at a high-growth rate and achieve scale-up status. As part of the broader Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, an Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) initiative to close the gender gap in entrepreneurship, Scale the Gap: Exploring Gender Ownership and Growth Experiences for Canadian Firms focuses on filling a critical knowledge gap. A quantitative methods paper, this research compliments the qualitative work recently published, Growing their own way: High-growth women entrepreneurs in Canada.
When we discuss rapidly growing firms—or scale-ups—we are talking about firms that have survived the start-up and early growth stages of a firm life cycle. They are market-tested, established firms who are highly unlikely to fail (compared to start-ups, who are much more likely to fail). In this report, we use the OECD-Eurostat definition of a scale-up, defined as high-growth firms with growth in employment or revenue by 20% annually (on average) for 3 consecutive years. Research indicates that, compared to non-scale-ups, these firms contribute most to employment growth, have higher productivity, are more likely to invest in R&D and export.